When MSCHF Co-Founder Daniel Greenberg describes the Satan Shoe his team designed with Lil Nas X as "probably the most viral shoe ever," he's not wrong. The blood-infused Nikes remain perhaps the most divisive kicks in the history of sneakerdom, having spurred countless reactionary thought-pieces and a lawsuit from The Swoosh itself.
With all that hubbub, you wouldn't blame MSCHF for being put off from ever designing another shoe. Or, at least, that if the Brooklyn-based art collective did elect to create another sneaker, the end result would be so far removed from anything Nike-adjacent that it'd be borderline unrecognizable.
Fitting that the first shoe from MSCHF Sneakers, MSCHF's new footwear line, would be, uh, pretty familiar-looking. Squint your eyes and it may remind you of that one famous sneaker named after a presidential plane.
"These have a 100% original insole, upper, sole, everything," Greenberg says in a Zoom call with me, emphasizing each word by pointing at every panel on the chunky black sneaker.
Though they're pretty cool shoes in and of themselves, the TAP3 sneakers were specifically designed with lawsuit-skirting in mind.
MSCHF even consulted with its in-house legal counsel (a necessity when your brand is built on baiting litigious corporations) to ensure that the TAP3's distinctions would hold up in court.
The space where you'd expect to see a copyrighted brand marker on the TAP3's upper, for instance, is instead shrouded in cautionary-colored "engineered faux tape" (what a week for tape!).
The TAP3 even comes in a shoebox tinted a verrrrry familiar (but legally safe) tone of orange, with streaks of tape obscuring the angular graphic on the lid.
Before you ask, no, that graphic isn't that one stylized checkmark-like shape owned by an inconceivably wealthy (and litigious) sportswear company — it's the tail of a crocodile. Obviously.
"The TAP3 is kind of the archetypical ur-shoe," Greenberg explains.
It goes without saying that while the TAP3 is a comment on MSCHF's previous shoe squabbles, it's also a real-deal shoe in its own right, painstakingly designed, sampled, and fabricated over the course of about 11 months with the other first few MSCHF Sneakers designs.
"It's nice timing that our first shoe drops a year after Nike sued MSCHF," Greenberg reflects.
It initially struck me as odd that the MSCHF Sneakers line is a pretty sincere stab at sneaker design.
The TAP3's lawsuit riff is obvious enough but it's still a pretty wearable shoe and most of the other shoes are relatively free from cultural commentary.
The thing is, the MSCHF team just likes sneakers. Greenberg, a self-professed sneakerhead, knows the power of the medium, a power that he believes is currently undervalued by the industry's big players.
"We've always known that sneakers are this culturally spicy object, sitting at the focal point of a lot of things," he explains. "We want to continue to use them as an object, creating our own infrastructure and building them from the ground up."
"But the sneaker landscape is so incredibly stale. Like, think about these collaborations where they bring in a celebrity to just change a color or emblem and that's it. If we were going to collaborate with a sneaker brand, they'd have to break open a new mold: we're not just doing a MSCHF colorway."
"We have so many ideas for sneakers, just doing one wouldn't have been enough," Chief Creative Officer Kevin Wiesner says. "We want to do them all."
"The only way to fulfill our desire for footwear creation was to have a dedicated line," Greenberg finishes.
"Our drops are art, narrative-driven conversations," Greenberg explains. "MSCHF Sneakers might have narrative but some are just fucking cool."
Having received a sneak peek of some future MSCHF Sneaker designs, I can confirm: some are just fucking cool.
The regular MSCHF drops will continue twice a month while MSCHF Sneakers will issue drops about half as often. Prices are standardized at $220 for sneakers and $290 for boots.
Basically, the MSCHF Sneakers collection is "limited but still mass," continues Greenberg. "A mix between art, luxury, and streetwear; cultural readymades that formally subvert what the shoe industry is doing."
Subversion is a key MSCHF's tenet. The inimitable Satan Shoes were fueled by Lil Nas X's gleeful prods at America's internalized satanic panic — Nike's C&D only proved the point (no one raised a stink about the Jesus Shoes, did they?).
Given that desire to undermine convention, the MSCHF team is a little wary of limitations with the phrase "Sneakers."
"We're pushing the boundary of what goes on a foot," Wiesner explained.
"Will we make sandals? High heels? Sneakers? Boots? Sure, maybe all of them. But who are we trying to be? No one. We're doing our own thing."