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I Can’t Shut Up About the Big Red Boots

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Shutterstock

I Can’t Shut Up About: Deep dives into my online obsession of the week.

You’ve avoided them all week. You’ve tried to run and hide, ignoring the sound of squishy clomps that follow close behind. But it’s time to stop running and address the inevitable. We must talk about MSCHF’s Big Red Boots.

To borrow an old saying, “Oh, my God, shoes.” It’s an apt summary of the conversation about these cartoonishly huge red rubber boots, which look exactly like what you are picturing based on that description; they are the Platonic ideal of a boot. As MSCHF, an artist collective known for its subversive creations, states, “Big red boots are really not shaped like feet, but they are extremely shaped like boots.” Each pair costs $350. Each boot weighs about three and a half pounds. “Cartoonishness is an abstraction that frees us from the constraints of reality,” the product description states. “If you kick someone in these boots they go boing!” They went on sale Thursday and sold out within minutes.

Many have noted their similarity to Astro Boy’s boots, though I’ve yet to see them styled as such (with little black undies and nothing else). In the week between MSCHF’s product announcement and their release, the boots were seemingly everywhere. On Instagram models and TikTok grandpas. At New York Fashion Week with Lil Wayne. At the Barclays center during Coi Leray’s halftime show. Some have dubbed the boots clowncore. Others say it’s a social experiment–slash–experiential art project. Others still have said the real art is the whole spectacle of releasing such a shoe: the reaction to the boots, the reaction to that reaction, the realization that it’s not just about boots, and the simultaneous truth that they are, in fact, just boots.

When you see the boots, you might first feel denial, like those tweeting, “That’s not fashion … that’s TRASH.” You may experience a combination of anger and depression, especially at their lack of practicality. (People keep getting stuck in the boots.) Perhaps you’ll reach the bargaining stage (i.e., cutting a slit in the back of the $350 boots to make them easier to take off). But then something clicks. Maybe it happens after you see a picture of Diplo wearing the Big Red Boots at a Knicks game while seated next to Emily Ratajkowski and her boyfriend, Eric Andre, who are, as a couple, a sort of social experiment themselves. Perhaps it comes after you watch WWE’s Seth Rollins kick another wrestler in the face while wearing the Big Red Boots. Ultimately, we all reach acceptance.

MSCHF’s drops are often first met with a resounding what the fuck? Before the Big Red Boots, the collective was best known for its shoe collaboration with Lil Nas X, the Nike Satan Shoes ($1,018) allegedly made with real human blood. (After settling a lawsuit with Nike, the shoes now appear censored on MSCHF’s site.) Last summer, it released Jimmy Fallon’s Gobstomper sneakers ($195), designed to be destroyed. A few months later, it put out a medical boot ($450) described as an homage to the fact that “industries with little to no regard for aesthetics designing objects for utilitarian purposes churn out bangers like no one else.” But MSCHF does far more than shoes.

Its list of product launches is a rabbit hole of consumerism for consumerism’s sake, part absurdity, part art as social critique. Last Valentine’s Day, it released a MSCHF defibrillator “to fix your literal broken heart.” It has launched a collection of AI-generated foot pics, the tagline being “this foot does not exist.” It’s turned the SAT into a contest, made Birkenstocks out of Birkin Bags, sold a box of cereal containing one big Fruit Loop, and created an ATM leaderboard that tracks and ranks the checking account balance of anyone who uses it. (As of December 2022, Diplo was No. 1 with $3,004,913.06.) On Thursday, the same day as the Big Red Boots’ release, a press release announced that MSCHF is hiring a taste tester for AI-generated candy, a position that will require you to eat 6,500 pieces of candy a month (about 339 per work day). To apply, you must be at least five years old.

By comparison, the Big Red Boots are far more conventional. They’re no more bizarre than Balenciaga’s stiletto Crocs, no more impractical than the Valentino shoes causing models to trip on the runway. Although they don’t ship for another eight weeks, the Big Red Boots are already being resold on third-party sites for upwards of $1,500. Will they still be relevant two months from now? Who’s to say, but fight it as you might, you absolutely have feelings about the Big Red Boots. Mine are simple: I wear a women’s size 8.

I Can’t Shut Up About the Big Red Boots