Shoes can’t stay hideous forever. So, they are, for now, happily silly
Clockwise (from top left): Loewe, MSCHF, JW Anderson X Wellipets, Balenciaga, Product photos: respective brands. Illustration: Just So
It is a matter of time. Ugly will morph to silly, not back to pretty, while staying in the realm of the ludicrous, remaining decidedly not for everyone until everyone wants it. This is what’s happening to shoes: they look like a pair you’d only see on Sonic the Hedgehog and company. Still, they are not those with all-over cartoon prints, such as Balenciaga’s yellow Knife boots from 2018. For the present season, the shoes to covet seem to have leapt out of your favourite cartoon characters’ feet and landed on yours. The first to appear was at the Loewe spring/summer 2022 last October, when Jonathan Anderson showed shoes that have been liked to those Mini Mouse wears (some said Daisy Duck). And then these past weeks, during New York Fashion Week, appear did the clunky, rubbery boots by MSCHF that many thought to resemble Astro Boy’s although they could easily be those worn by Dora the Explorer’s monkey-friend, appropriately named Boots!
MSCHF’s gigantic Big Red Boots (as in Big Bad Wolf?) have been so much the rage and in the news (and desirable?) that, earlier in the week, SOTD readers sent us reports and TikTok videos about them and their wearers, wondering—possibly in dismay—why we have skipped commenting on the silly-looking footwear. There is really now not much to say about the choices people make so that, in whatever they wear, they will be a social media hit. We told ourself it’ll all pass until it has not. Those MSCHF boots just won’t go away from our news feeds, even when, prior, we did not search for them. These red, wellies-looking shoes have almost no aesthetic appeal; they could pass off as a silicone caddy for kitchen utensils. They look drawn on by a cartoonist with no interest in details, or 3D-printed. We once thought that no one would really go further than Crocs, but we were wrong. Fashion has, of course, turned consumers topsy-turvy. These days, we’re vending S&M teddy bear-bags via children and selling kiddy footwear to grown-ups. No mischief intended, apparently.
MSCHF doesn’t make shoes; it isn’t a footwear company the way Steve Madden is. Heck, it is not even a fashion company the way Supreme is. Or, Yeezy was. Based in Brooklyn, New York, the brand (they’ve been referred to as a “creative” too) creates stuff, but not necessarily for serious, world-changing consumption. These could be anything, but footwear has been what they have largely made their name on. In 2020, there was the infamous “Jesus Shoes” that was nothing like what the Jews of the Roman Empire wore. They were, in fact, Nike Air Max 97s with soles purported to contain “holy water” from the River Jordan. MSCHF sold them—online, of course—for a staggering US$1,425 (about S$1904). Mind you, this was not a collaboration with the Swoosh and you can imagine that the sneaker biggie was not amused. Nor the Vatican, for that matter. Unsurprisingly, the not-quite-pure Air Max 97 sold out, with the black market reportedly asking for US$4,000 a pair. Why anyone needed such sneakers and would pay staggering amounts for them is still not clearly known. The thought of possessing something ridiculous but with a perceived value of staggering levels was—and still is—enough for brands to want to tap it for a real business/branding strategy.
How do you describe these cartoon-shoes without using the convenient word ‘silly’? Like ugly, silly, too, is being redefined. Looking silly is not silly! It now dances within the increasingly vague parameters of beauty. It certainly was not for Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies between 1929 and 1939. Until the COVID era, no brand would have considered shoes, however simple they look, that only Olive Oyl types would think of buying and wearing (Ms Oyl might, in fact, desire the MSCHF pair in place of her beat-up brown ones if she were to consider what is presently fashionable). But now TikTokers and the like can’t wait to jump into a pair. Dainty pumps and kitty heels are too inconspicuous. Women have once again shown that they can occupy the big shoes they desire to fill. And look delightful, and adorable. With Lil Wayne and wrestling star Seth Rollins wearing the Big Red Boots, even the guys, amazingly, want to look Nitendo-cute, too.