MSCHF, escapism, and Gen Z
The art collective that has dominated viral Gen Z drops
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Devilry, rascality, jiggery-pokery, shenanigans, diablerie… even MSCHF, are all things that Gen Z likes. I'd say love, but in this economy? I know none of us are falling in love (me when I lie). Look, not to toot my own generation's horn, but we have been changing perceptions EVERYWHERE, in EVERY FIELD. But let's focus on what Gen Z loves more — absurdity and fashion. What do you get when you blend the two together? You get MSCHF. What is MSCHF? That's what I'm here for; let's take a deep dive into the MSCHF(ious) activities.
Okay, so if you haven't heard of MSCHF, hi Patrick, how are ya? I'm kiddiiiiiing. If you haven't heard of the brand, you've definitely heard of the 'drops' or 'releases'. Jesus shoes? Gobstomper? Satan Shoes? Any of that sound familiar? Come on, at least the Satan shoes have got to ring a bell? If not any of those (I am very disappointed; I haven't been doing my job well enough if y'all don't know about them), their latest release should DEFINITELY ring a bell: the 'Big. Red. Boots.' or the Astroboy boots, as they've been so fondly called by our beloved internet. MSCHF is known for their absurdity. Okay, but what is it? So it's not a brand; it's an art collective, and everything they produce, including the sneakers, are all artworks. While it's not a brand, their identity is a HUGE brand.
MSCHF's Gabriel Whaley, who is the founder and currently acts as the CEO, says that the point of the collective is to produce commentary more than social profit, which is evident by them NOT doubling down on the popularity of the Jesus sneakers. MSCHF is THE BEST case study in terms of marketing because they use no marketing, at least not in traditional ways. They have no flagship products either. The social media accounts were private in 2020, but now their Instagram asks whoever comes across their account not to follow them. A genius stroke of reverse psychology? But why are they famous, especially amongst Gen Z? The answer is simple — absurdity.
When I look at MSCHF, I see a collective (since they're not a brand) that fits in but also not. It's a space for Gen Z to feel understood. They're not tied to a category, and there's a space for everyone — tech bros, sneakerheads, social commentators, cultural misfits, everyone. There's no secret formula for going viral because even though the social media market is so saturated, nobody's understood how to go viral consistently, except maybe MSCHF. Still through no secret formula for virality, but by consistently churning out content that sticks that has earned the group a likeness to Banksy. What does MSCHF do? Novelty, uniqueness, escapism. Let me elaborate.
In this age of social media, where short-form content is getting even shorter because if you can't catch people's attention in the first few seconds, they'll scroll, we need newness to sustain ourselves and not go off the rails. New stimuli in all forms catch our attention, and we as (absolutely sane) humans will go towards it. Because it's new, it's unknown, we'll adapt to it and therefore learn from it for the future (Miss History doesn't agree with us because she keeps repeating herself, slay 💅🏻). As long as we keep getting something new, we as consumers will eat it up. The Jesus sneakers and the Satan shoes are two diametrically opposing concepts but both of them worked pretty well. Sneakers and biblical concepts are something we already know and are familar with, but using Holy Water and a drop of blood in the shoes? Nobody did that and that’s where newness comes in. Even if the idea is simple.
Humans have a need to belong to a group and to be unique. We want to be included in a group for the safeties of it but we want to bring something new to the group, so we try to show our uniqueness through what we can bring to the table or by what we buy. Given how short the time span to grab attention is, something weird will always catch it. That’s why the red boots had such a moment albeit not long lasting. But that’s why we have a new drop that’s being talked about — the backward shoes. All you need is a weird, unique or different idea or product.
Escapism has had to be one of the most searched terms of 2020 because everything has got to go back to the year of… the plague (ominous music is playing in the background). We’re living in times of uncertainty and we’re facing existential crises. Escapism is a tool we need get through life at this time. We get doses of escapism through retail, media, food and so many other things. Escapism’s boundaries are tested when the lines between conceptual and perceptual are blurred. When we challenge the roots of what we know. Nostalgia is the biggest form of escapism. When we see something familiar, we’re comforted. Again, the example of the big red boots. They’re reminiscent of an old cartoon and that’s why everyone ran to get them. Even though the hype was short lived, it got the brand more recognition and put them more prominently on the map. So what have we learned today? There’s no formula for consistent virality, unless you’re MSCHF who have apparently cracked the code, or have they?
Let us know your thoughts about MSCHF, their drops, and the virality they’ve achieved!
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— Written by Shaurya, Trends Reporter at The Z Link
Connect with Shaurya on Instagram where she shares great content and lives her best influencer life as a fashion student in Paris. And she writes all of these great issues too. What can’t she do??? 🧐 Thank you for reading!