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The Cartoonification of Fashion

The comically massive, red, rubber boots have quickly become the internet’s newest fashion obsession, and if you’ve been online in the last week it’s highly likely you have seen them and the divided discourse surrounding whether they’re hot or not.

Haven't heard of MSCHF? You were probably privy to the controversy sparked by Lil Nas X’s “Satan Shoes” in 2021. They are the same art collective behind these Big Red Boots. Set to release on February 16th, they’ve described them as a “cartoon boot for a cool 3D world”, and they’ve begun marketing with a social media campaign. Images of Sarah Snyder, shot by Garrett Bruce dropped on Instagram on February 7th and immediately sparked a polarised conversation. They have since drawn comparisons to cartoon characters AstroBoy, Ronald McDonald and Candace from Phineas and Ferb, jokingly referring to them as fashion muses.

Whilst the practicality of the shoe has come into question, the MSCHF team have expressed that the shoe’s impracticality is completely intentional: "You never design shoes to be shaped like feet," says a spokesperson from the brand. "Big Red Boots are really not shaped like feet, but they are extremely shaped like boots."

Now, MSCHF might be onto something here. It’s not as if we haven’t seen an uprising in weird, animated clothing silhouettes - especially footwear. Something we’ve seen coined on social media as “The Cartoonification of Fashion”.

2023 runways had plenty examples:

At Loewe, there were oversized pumps (pictured) on their SS23 womenswear runway that drew comparisons to Barbie, Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck, and have since received the nod from the Jenner sisters. We also saw blurred lines between the real and the fake move away from just accessories and shoes, but into clothing (pictured).

We’ve seen the Vetements fur slip-on shoes and JW Anderson more recently sending models down the runway in frog-shaped rubber shoes at its FW23 menswear show.

Social media users have since gone on a quest to figure out the origin:

But without entering a rabbit hole to figure out where it started, it is safe to say fashion has had a never-ending influence on animation artwork and we are now witnessing the reverse; animation artwork influencing fashion. We’ve particularly seen this with anime over the years. To say the interconnectedness has been birthed recently would be false.

The fashion world interacts with the realms of anime in a number of ways, at the surface with fashion magazines mirroring the aesthetic in editorials and major luxury houses incorporating the quintessential silhouettes in their runways, but more recently with somewhat unexpected collaborations. We’ve seen a number of capsules from Loewe (with Studio Ghibli), notably the Spirited Away collection serving as a follow-up from their collection for My Neighbour Totoro in 2021; a Gucci and Doraemon capsule; Balmain working with Pokemon; and most recently, Jimmy Choo and Sailor Moon (pictured) announced their collaborative capsule on the same day the MSCHF marketing campaign dropped.

But before the biggest designers were turning to Japanese anime, it could be said that the cartoon world was looking to fashion for inspiration. Sailor Moon creator, Naoko Takeuchi, often pulled ideas for her heroines’ clothing from designer looks from Chanel, Dior, Thierry Mugler, Vivienne Westwood and others. The Jimmy Choo collaboration is a full circle moment, and also shows us how heavily both worlds lean on one another.

Even though it may seem to some that buying clothing like the Big Red Boot, and the pieces from these one-off collaborative capsules, is just trend-led shopping, it could easily be seen as a method of escapism or a way to invite fun and carefreeness into our lives. By adopting maximalism as a norm we are in turn rejecting the confines of traditional sartorialism. Following the pandemic and now entering into a recession, times like this allow for over-the-top, maximalist dressing to act as a distraction from the fact we aren’t living in the best of times. And there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that. After all, cartoons are deeply rooted in nostalgia and comfort. For many of us, these TV personalities gave us our earliest fashion inspirations.


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