The MSCHF Big Red Boots are hard to ignore, even harder to style.
Inspired by characters coyly described as ‘the mouse’, ‘the plumber’ and ‘the hungry circle’ on the brand’s website, mankind hasn’t seen such controversial and talked-about footwear since Crocs came on the market in 2002. But MSCHF isn’t the only fashion line to play with surreal, cartoony aesthetics this season.
Bright colors, exaggerated proportions, and plastic-looking leather and vinyl have been showing up increasingly in fashion, comparisons often being drawn to animation, video games, and toys. Words like ‘puffication’ and ‘cartoonification’ are being thrown around a lot lately, but what are the implications of this trend?
The types of pieces we’re starting to see emerge are less about comfort, function, or even the human body, and more about the representation of clothing items themselves. The Comic Chunky Vinyl Pump by Loewe evokes Daisy Duck or Barbie, mimicking the exaggerated proportions of cartoons– which were first mimicking real life women’s fashion of the middle 1900s. The pixelated style pieces, also from Loewe, create an almost eerie two dimensional effect, making the wearer look like a flat rendering from an early 2000’s flash game.
The Prada puffy shoes are giving 1990’s cool older sister in an episodic cartoon series
Brands are increasingly relying on playful, whimsical designs that blur the line between real and imaginary worlds. Some critics view hyperreal fashion as a form of escapism or commercialized nostalgia, simply designed to appeal to younger audiences yearning for a simpler time. Others point out the easy memeification of pieces like this, but wonder if these looks will trickle down to be represented in streetwear the average fashion-forward consumer might purchase.
Loewe does Polly Pocket inspired looks in their fall/winter 2023 line. Looks chewy.
But for those who choose to see the artistry in hyperreality, the near-absurdity is a reflection of the times. With constant remakes and reboots of popular IPs, brands sporting limited-time retro logos, and the wheel of cyclical fashion that just keeps spinning ever faster – what we call ‘modern culture’ can all start to feel like just a copy of a copy of a copy. The hyperreal nature of the Big Red Boots in particular is best described by this quote from the product description, “Big Red Boots are really not shaped like feet, but they are extremely shaped like boots”.
The idea of hyperreality was born out of the postmodern movement in philosophy and heavily influenced by the social movements of the 1960’s, challenging preexisting social institutions and conventions, and the rising consumerist culture and media influence of the 1970’s and 80’s. In 1981 Jean Baudrillard, a French sociologist with a focus in symbology, representation, and media, proposed the concept of hyperreality as ‘the inability to distinguish reality from representations of it’. The effects of hyperreality become even more present in a time when Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality technology is rapidly advancing, further blurring the lines between what is real and what is a representation of something real.
At the time of publication, the Big Red Boots are sold out, and more brands seem to be following their lead and adopting this hyperreal trend.
Fashion is a reflection of culture, and right now fashion is reflecting how absurd it all feels. If billionaires are going to hoard wealth like dragons and our political leaders are going to be cartoon villains, why shouldn’t we be cartoon heroes?
…or at the very least, NPCs who dress cool.
How would you style the Big Red Boots? Let us know in the comments!