MSCHF’s cartoonish red boots are everywhere. You might think this a trend coming after Loewe’s Minnie Mouse boots and JW Anderson’s frog slides, but these boots are also indicative of a larger trend in the world of fashion.
The word simulacra (from the Latin simulacrum, which means likeness), usually refers to an inferior copy of an original. But in Simulacra and Simulation, Jean Baudrillard argues that a simulacra is not a copy, but a truth in its own right. Simulacra is hyperreal.
MSCHF’s boots are also in this way a simulacra. They aren’t just any boots, they are big cartoonish red boots that look like they belong on Mickey Mouse. The cartoon boots were a symbol of real human feet, yet now they have come back full circle. This is hyperrealism and it is also everywhere.
The fashion of TikTok is performative. Fashion was always a performance, but it has reached a new level with the addition of TikTok’s hyperrealism. People dress up in outfits inspired by Marvel superheroes and entire aesthetics remain limited to online spaces. Many clothing trends in our present state only serve an imagined purpose on social media, they are no longer made to be worn in the real world. This is hyperrealism. This is simulacra and simulation.
But is this a new concept, brought about by the dawn of short-form video content? No. Baudrillard wrote his book in the 80s; these concerns have always been with us – social media has simply made them more pronounced. We have always imitated and referenced things that hold significance for us and make us feel something – that is what made art great in the first place.
So what does all of this mean for fashion moving forward? References and simulacra elevate fashion to the status of art, imbuing it with meaning that goes beyond a simple function. But fashion is still design, function remains supreme or else hyperrealism will result in hyper-consumption. It already has. In a world that spoils us for choice, we must be wary. We must be conscious consumers, not just of fashion, but also the media that surrounds us.