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MSCHF’s “Big Red Boots” and Hyper-Reality Fashion

Big Red Boots. They’re an art piece. They’re a meme. They’re “really not shaped like feet, but they are extremely shaped like boots.”

A model figure of Astro Boy to the left of MSCHF's Big Red Boots.
Image: Maxtorstock/Shutterstock and Christos'/YouTube

MSCHF’s “Big Red Boots” captured the internet’s attention long before their official release on February 16, 2023. Celebrities like Iggy Azalea and Lil Wayne showed off their Big Red Boots on Instagram. WWE wrestler Seth Rollins took the Big Red Boots into the ring, delivering a curb stomp to the Miz. Artist Coi Leray performed in her Big Red Boots at the Brooklyn Nets halftime show. 

The Big Red Boots are the latest drop by Brooklyn-based art collective MSCHF, but what’s unique about these boots? And who are the people behind this new trend?

The Big Red Boots

As described by MSCHF, the Big Red Boots are “cartoon boots for a cool 3D world.” They resemble the red boots worn by cartoon characters like Boots from Dora the Explorer or Astro Boy. The Big Red Boots have gained attention because of their odd size and shape– they don’t look like any shoe we’ve ever seen. There’s also the question of how difficult it is to take the boots off and how to style the shoes. 

Thanks to their widespread online presence in the week leading up to their launch, the Big Red Boots, which sold for $350, sold out hours after their launch.  

Who or What is MSCHF?

MSCHF's Satan Shoe with the Nike labels censored.
Credit: MSCHF/satan.shoe

This isn’t the first shoe drop by MSCHF. The group previously received attention for collaborating with Lil Nas X on the Satan Shoe, a custom Nike Air Max 97 shoe with real human blood. The group also released the Jesus Shoes (custom Nike Air Max 97 shoes with holy water in the soles), Birkinstocks (sandals made out of destroyed Birkin bags), and the AC. 1 (foot brace boots as footwear). However, to only look at the shoes MSCHF has made would mean missing out on the group’s hefty portfolio of art drops and social critiques.

As they describe themselves on their website,

MSCHF is an art collective that engages art, fashion, tech, and capitalism. The collective subverts mass/popular culture and corporate operations as tools for critique and intervention. MSCHF, as a practice and as an entity, manifests the ambition for creative work/a creative entity to wield real tangible power (in culture; on the world stage; as measured against the cultural power held by world-straddling companies, celebrities, and media entities).

Many of the group’s launches have to deal with consumer culture and critiquing different aspects of capitalism. From critiquing Disney and the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act” in their MSCHF x Famous Mouse 2024 drop to critiquing the invasion of privacy and Amazon Alexa in their Alexagate drop, the group is very vocal about their beliefs. As they said in The Blue Donkey launch, “when we see a system, we gotta break it.”

With each drop, MSCHF provides a manifesto or product details describing their intention with their project. For the Big Red Boots, the product details included a description of the boots and commentary on the distinctions between fantasy and reality. 

Cartoon boots for a cool 3D world. Cartoonishness is an abstraction that frees us from the constraints of reality. If you kick someone in these boots they go boing! 

The aesthetic overton window continues to stretch open towards the unreal. McQueen’s Armadillo Heels tripped on the runway so that the BRB could run to the corner store. The continued blending of virtual and IRL aesthetics has us chasing supernormal stimuli. When half the sneakers we see on social media are renderings, we come to expect a baseline of unreality. Big Red Boots are VR chat boots.

Hyperreality in Fashion

MSCHF explained in their product details that the virtual and real world had blended together so that, while the Big Red Boots may seem odd, they can still be mainstreamed. The Big Red Boots and their cartoonishness can be seen as an example of hyperreality in fashion. 

Hyperreality is the inability to distinguish reality from its representations. It’s seen as a condition where fiction and reality are indistinguishable from one another. This is especially prevalent in the present due to AI and consumerism. We’ve seen hyperreality in fashion with augmented-reality digital clothing and virtual clothing. With the Big Red Boots, MSCHF took the representation of shoes that we see in cartoons and brought this to life. As AI becomes prominent in our lives, hyperreality could become a new trend in fashion, with more brands seeking to emulate what MSCHF has done. 

Written By

Isó is a second-year student studying creative writing and screenwriting at The University of Iowa. They love dressing up to go nowhere, listening to ghost stories, and taking pictures of their cats.

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