(Image credit: getty images,
A new design launching at Paris Fashion Week this week is the latest in this year’s most surprising trend – comically oversized shoes. Daisy Woodward steps into the chaotic world of cartoon shoes.
From cowboy boots and kitten heels to Mary Janes and court shoes, 2023 has ushered in the return of many established shoes on the runways. But it has also seen the rise of a new, more surprising shoe: the cartoonishly oversized shoe. Bottega Veneta’s BV “Poodle Boot” (a thick-soled rubber rain boot with a bulbous toe that debuted in 2020), and Kerwin Frost’s super-stuffed Adidas Superstar (a 2021 collaboration that saw the classic Superstar sneaker ), the maximalist look was galvanized in February this year when US label and art collective MSCHF released their attention-grabbing “Big Red Boot” .
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Appearing to have jumped straight from the pages of the 1990s Japanese manga series Astro Boy, the giant, pillarbox-red boots, rendered in TPU and EVA foam, are simultaneously nostalgic, futuristic and completely absurd; As MSCHF declared in its press release, “If you kick someone in these shoes, they go boeing!” Still, despite their silliness and inadvertent suction issues — check out the viral TikTok video in which a wearer gets stuck in his BRB — the unisex shoes were soon worn by everyone from Doja Cat and Lil Nas Started going.
Marni is launching its “Big Foot 2.0” sneakers at Paris Fashion Week (Credit: Marni)
Meanwhile, the launch of the Spring/Summer 2023 collection offered a more sophisticated take on cartoon-channeling shoes, from Prada’s proudly puffy Nappa loafers to Loewe’s comic lacquered foam pumps (think Minnie Mouse’s oversized, slip-on high appear to be inspired by heels). Proenza Schouler’s cushioned arch platform mules. And, for men’s and women’s wear alike, the craze shows no signs of slowing down. In August, like Balenciaga before them, MSCHF paired with Crocs to introduce the “Big Yellow Shoe”—a sunflower-yellow take on the BRB, bearing Crocs’ trademark holes and heel strap—while Marni introduced its ” Set to release at Paris Fashion Week this week are the “Big Foot” 2.0″ sneakers, a more exaggerated, decidedly comic-book take on the Italian house’s 2018 platform trainer.
So, what does our newfound interest in clumsy, cartoonesque footwear mean? “In a sense, it communicates a desire for non-conformity and personal expression, which aligns with contemporary values of individuality and self-confidence,” says Dr. Caroline Mair, a cognitive psychologist and fashion business consultant, and author of The Psychology of The author tells BBC Culture, about fashion. “And at the same time, this novel subverts more traditional ideals of beauty by prioritizing unconventional aesthetics.”
Cultural historian Annabella Pollan agrees. “They remind me somewhat of the shoes designed by second-wave feminists in the 1970s and 1980s,” she tells BBC Culture. “They saw the trend of stiletto heels and pointed toes as a way to keep women in their place, so they created their own handmade, toe-shaped styles that were based on men’s workwear shoes, and very Were more anti-fashion.”
Bottega Veneta’s “Poodle Boots” were the pioneers of the big shoe trend (Credit: Getty Images)
UK shoemakers, including all-women’s groups such as Green Shoes, Orchid Shoes and Made to Last, often advertised in the feminist magazine Spare Rib, presenting sensitive shoes as a form of resistance. “She said, for example, by using ribbon for the laces and brightly colored leather like purple, pink and green, she made them quite decorative,” Pollen continues. “The shoes were tough and practical, but they also made a big statement. They allowed women to take up space, and gave them freedom of movement.”
go big or go home
In terms of functionality, Caroline Stevenson, program director of cultural and historical studies at the London College of Fashion, sees similar correlations in some other historical examples of the cartoon shoe with its raised sole and protective padding. “Probably the earliest link chopin,” she tells BBC Culture, referring to one of the first iterations of the platform, which was worn by aristocratic women of Venice between the late 15th and early 17th centuries. “They were originally created for practicality. They were created to protect the wearer’s feet from the streets, but then became a fashionable item in their own right, carrying this symbolic meaning regarding social status, as their height conveyed the wearer’s status. However, it was very difficult to walk in them – some were 20 inches high.”
Even more relevant to the retrospective, in Stevenson’s opinion, is the 1990s context that seems to attract many of today’s oversized shoes: “Big, Spice Girls-style trainers, like platform Buffalo shoes, ” she says. “They were representative of opposition cultural politics and women’s empowerment, and they also had a unisex appeal. They were also of the 90s spirited culture – they had an element of practicality for people who would run around in a field until all hours of the morning. -Wandering around.” According to Stevenson the platform trainers themselves were inspired by the platforms of the 1970s, which were also designed for dancing – meant to stand for hours amid the glitz and glamor of the disco era.
And, in the case of cartoon shoes, standing out means a lot. As Maier explains, “Our vision has evolved to allow us to automatically process objects without paying attention to those that are typical or representative of their category, so we use our limited attention to pay attention to unusual objects.” The use of cognitive resources may (in an evolutionary sense) be a threat. The attention-grabbing aesthetic of today’s oversized shoes may not appeal to everyone, but they will certainly grab your attention and, This way, there is a possibility of presenting a daring and fun image.
MSCHF’s “big red boot” has been a hit among fashionistas and celebrities (Credit: Alamy)
In this vein, it’s interesting to note that the absurd, maximalist nature of cartoon-style shoes appears to be correlated with a broader fashion movement: “clowncore,” a circus-inspired aesthetic that gained traction on TikTok in 2020, and It has since made its way into high fashion – houses ranging from Dior and Armani Privé to Chanel have adopted the trend. “The Spring 2023 Paris couture show made a lot of references to clowns and harlequins, connecting to the clowncore movement,” says Stevenson. “It’s about being playful and escapist, which makes sense because we’re living through very confusing times, and fashion always tries to make sense of confusing times.”
And whether they bring to mind images of clowns or cartoons, ’90s robot boys or girl-power-proclaiming pop stars, there’s no doubt that the current craze for big, bulbous shoes is giving rise to a widespread sense of nostalgia. gives. “They remind us of childhood memories, evoking a sense of belonging and warm, fun times: splashing water in puddles and playing with friends in a carefree world,” says Meier. As MSCHF said in reference to the Big Red Boot, “Cartoonness is an abstraction that frees us from the constraints of reality” – and maybe that’s what we need most right now.
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