When your brand is literally called MSCHF, it shouldn’t be a shocker that there’s a good dose of actual mischief embedded in the ethos. That’s exactly what the label behind Lil Nas X’s wildly viral Satan shoes promises to deliver with each of its bi-monthly drops. Note we didn’t say “bi-monthly sneaker drops” — because while the most famous MSCHF products are shoes, they’ve also launched tongue-in-cheek bath bombs, internet browser add-ons, AI-generated feet photos, and rubber chicken bongs, along with various other weird shit and ephemera.
The Satan shoes aren’t the brand’s first brush with viral fame, either. Launched in 2016 and based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (obvi), MSCHF is the same brand that brought you this year’s Birkinstocks — Birkenstock sandals made using the leather from real Birkin bags and those dope as hell all-white Nike Aix Max 97s filled with 60CCs of Holy Water sourced from the River Jordan back in 2019. So while it might feel like they’ve come out of nowhere, stunt marketing like this is very much their #brand.
Everything out of MSCHF comes wrapped in layers of nihilistic irony that attempts to reflect the absurdity of a world where people get hyped over things like Supreme stamped bricks and shrug off stuff like an attempted coup from a game-show-host-turned-President as just another Wednesday in the waning days of the American Empire. But by adopting the uber-capitalistic “bi-weekly drop” cadence of a modern streetwear company, MSCHF is very much part of the world they’re skewering. (The line between viral marketing and literal trolling gets very tough to see when you look at things like MSCHF’s ClickSwipe app, which swipes right on Tinder for you every time you click something with your mouse).
“Our perspective is everything is funny in a nihilistic sort of way,” MSCHF CEO Gabriel Whaley told Business Insider in an interview. “We’re not here to make the world a better place. We’re making light of how much everything sucks.”
If you take those words at face value, MSCHF feels a lot of the old Supreme — which gained legitimate clout via viral product drops. When the Supreme brick happened it was product-as-commentary, a release that reflected the absurdity of the hype machine surrounding the counterculture skatewear brand itself. The fact that people actually paid for it is what made the brick such an iconically dark moment in streetwear history.
These days, Supreme plays its relatively safe, favoring official collaborations over everything, though they’ll still drop a random accessory here and there. The gap in the “is this a real commentary on commerce or just commerce in disguise as commentary?” space that Supreme left behind has since been filled by MSCHF. And the relationship is a weirdly reciprocal one — with MSCHF’s ironic products hitting harder because we saw how well that model actually served Supreme.
Now bring all that context to bear on the Satan shoes — which a judge has just ordered the brand to stop selling. Note, that this isn’t an official collab. MSCHF calls them “art pieces” and that’s correct, though Nike is arguing that the general public isn’t sophisticated enough to know that this devil-themed footwear wasn’t actually made by Swoosh & Co., which also seems to be true. While sneaker customization isn’t illegal, when you’re selling 666 customized sneakers with blood in the air bubble and freaking out square Christian parents across the country, the brand whose shoe you’re using has every right to ask you to chill.
MSCHF will surely cease and desist and their next drop will be all the more anticipated because of this episode. Nike lawyers could squash them, but why would they? Their brand got a little badass-rebel energy from this dance and their PR machine will fight to correct misperceptions among their core suburban fanbase. Round and round we go.
Eventually, the two brands will probably collaborate for real. Again, Supreme laid down the playbook for this. In 2000 Supreme received a cease-and-desist from Louis Vuitton for lifting the brand’s signature monogram print. 17 years later the two brands announced their first of several official collaborations. Let’s hope it doesn’t take that long for MSCHF and Nike to make nice.
What you think of MSCHF’s actual products depends on your life stage and whether its model feels fresh or tired to you. Do you think blood in a shoe is bold? What about a bath bomb shaped like a toaster? Or an Instagram account that proudly proclaims “DO NOT FOLLOW US“? If that sounds corny or if you’re past it because it feels like a retread of Supreme, feel free to look away.
For the rest of us, MSCHF is infusing the world of streetwear and accessory drops with some conversation-starting fun, re-capturing the counter-culture energy of an industry that has become commercialized to the point of banality. Whether it’s capitalism masquerading as rebellion or rebellion masquerading as capitalism is impossible to say. But maybe that, too, is part of the point.
MSCHF's "Lite Mode" (left) vs. "Dark Mode" (right) for their Toaster bath bomb drop is instantly iconic. pic.twitter.com/Gp93dd4XWs
— Roger (6’5”) (@iamtherog) December 10, 2019
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