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MSCHF's Timberland-Trolling Boots Might Be the Brand's Most Controversial Design Yet

Photographs: Getty Images, MSCHF; Collage: Gabe Conte

When the fashion pranksters at MSCHF dropped their Big Red Boots last February, it set the entire style world aflame—a headline-grabbing stunt that doubled as a dadaist fashion statement. The boots were purposefully gaudy and ostentatious, and one's level of tolerance for their absurdity became a sort of sartorial litmus test. Love ‘em or hate ’em, it's hard to deny MSCHF's innate ability to attract attention.

So it’s hardly surprising that the brand's latest boots have already stirred up plenty of controversy before they've dropped. The MSCHF 2x4 Construction Boot, which drops tomorrow for $400, looks strikingly similar to Timberland’s classic 6-inch work boot, which the Boston company has been producing since the early 1970s. In fact, the 2x4 appears to be a play on the Timberland original, remixing and recontextualizing the icon with a wry sense of humor—the boot version of a Warhol painting.

Like other MSCHF releases, the 2x4 boot flips familiar design elements in unconventional ways: The bold tread sole of the Timberland has been replicated along the boot’s tongue and upper, giving the whole thing an M.C. Escher feel. The doubled heel, meanwhile, adds an illusion of disjointed height.

Earlier this week, Timberland seemed to acknowledge the homage, posting an Instagram image that declared its 6-inch boot “The Original,” which of course implies that there’s a copycat. Shortly thereafter, MSCHF overly responded, using an identical template to declare that its own boot was “Also Original,” a clever play on words that summarizes the label's entire design philosophy. This isn’t simply a case of one brand mimicking another. MSCHF seems to want it to be a bigger conversation: What is originality? What makes for an iconic boot? Does parody law cover work boots?

It’s worth noting that Timberland is owned by VF Corporation, who famously filed suit against MSCHF in 2022 as a response to their Vans-aping “Wavy Baby” sneaker, which similarly drew on the familiar look of an iconic shoe to make a sort of postmodern statement. VF Corp’s filing claimed that MSCHF’s Wavy Baby “blatantly and unmistakable incorporates Vans’ iconic trademarks and trade dress,” and you’d be hard-pressed to say that the 2x4 Construction Boot doesn’t do pretty much the same thing with the Timbs. In the end, the court of appeals decided that MSCHF was indeed in the wrong, concluding that there was a “likelihood of confusion” for consumers who might not “get” what the brand was doing with its coy spin.

You’d have to imagine that the Vans v. Wavy Baby decision would have set a pretty cut-and-dry precedent against this kind of design ethos, especially considering that we’re talking about another shoe owned by the same umbrella brand. Which may actually suggest that something else is going on here: Given the speed (and overall lightheartedness) with which Timberland responded on its social channels, is it possible that VF Corp and MSCHF are working on this release in tandem, perhaps as some kind of collaboration that hasn’t been announced yet? It wouldn’t the first time that fake beef has been used to promote a shoe, and it would certainly make more sense, from a legal standpoint, than MSCHF simply walking into another lawsuit.

We'll find out one way or the other soon enough. In the meantime, if you're looking to cop a pair of 2x4s yourself, they'll be available starting March 19 for $400 at MSCHF.com.

Originally Appeared on GQ


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