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How Astro Boy’s Boots Have Gone from Anime Fringe to Fashion’s Mainstream

How Astro Boy’s Boots Have Gone from Anime Fringe to Fashion’s Mainstream

Astro Boy, known in Japan by its original name Mighty Atom or Tetsuwan-Atomu, has inspired a lot of anime and other media since its inception in 1952. One could even argue that there would be no Mega Man — Capcom’s sci-fi video game franchise — without Astro Boy. In fact, there are many things that all gamers and die-hard manga and anime enthusiasts have no one but Osamu Tezuka — the artist who wrote and illustrated Astro Boy — to thank for.

With that said, Astro Boy has never been a very famous mainstream figure — well, at least not until now. MSCHF Sneakers, a sublabel of art collective MSCHF, has unveiled a very creative new offering that’s apparently inspired by the boots worn by one of the most iconic characters coming from the Land of the Rising Sun. While gaming and anime fans most certainly didn’t expect to see even the most seasoned sneakerheads rocking these boots, let alone the “high-fashion” community, these boots are the latest and greatest in shoe creativity and comfort.

But before we discuss these wondrous boots, called the Big Red Boot, that MSCHF has created, let’s first discuss Astro Boy and how both the manga and the subsequent anime adaptation influenced fashion over the years. Because, believe it or not, a show about a young android boy with human emotions actually had a massive impact on fashion worldwide, from alternative culture movements to modern, mainstream high fashion.

Astro Boy is widely considered one of the best manga and anime series of all time, as the manga was ranked number 6 for “Greatest Manga of All Time” and the third highest Tezuka manga. The anime adaptation from 1963 currently ranks second on the “Greatest Anime of All Time” list and, according to Nippon, the first popular anime television series. Ever since the inception of the manga and subsequent anime adaptation, the boots have been a central part of Astro’s character design.

While many sources nowadays claim that Astro Boy’s boots were inspired by the footwear of American football players, which were popular in Japan at the time, Tezuka actually took the inspiration from roller skates. Roller skates often grant their wearer speed and agility; Astro’s boots do the same, but by different means, as they’re equipped with futuristic and practical technology.

Their original design was rather simple; due to the black-and-white nature of 1950s manga, boots were mostly colored bright gray, prompting many to believe they were red, though, in some iterations, the boots were colored black, with a thick, flat sole and rounded toe. The design evolved over the years, and the artists experimented with different boots. While the original boots go up to Astro’s knees, some iterations of the character have different boots—some designs came up to Astro’s ankles and were even secured with shoelaces.

Astro’s boots weren’t just a stylish accessory to the protagonist but an essential part of his abilities. They had built-in jet engines that allowed the character to fly and gave him superhuman speed and agility. When Astro Boy anime was first broadcast in the United States, it inspired a surge of interest in all things Japanese, which included fashion, and Astro Boy’s boots were at the forefront of this trend from the 1960s through the 1990s.

Through that time, people acquainted with Astro Boy, especially fans of Japanese pop culture, wore red boots that intentionally resembled those worn by Astro. When anime and manga became more mainstream in the US, fashion designers created anime- and manga-inspired collections, often including some iteration of Astro Boy‘s boots. This brings us to MSCHF’s creation — the one that bears the closest resemblance to Astro Boy’s boots.

And truly, MSCHF has created actual footwear that looks like Astro Boy‘s signature boots brought into the real world. According to Daniel Greenberg, the Big Red boot is a realization of cartoonish abstractions of shoes, representing an overstated form that conveys the idea of a “boot” without worrying too much about practicality and realism. In short, when you see it, you know it’s a boot, despite lacking nearly all the features associated with modern-day footwear.

Of course, the Big Red boot doesn’t mention its relationship to Astro Boy, most likely due to legal reasons, but anyone acquainted with the anime knows where this design originated from. MSCHF took it upon themselves to make this aesthetic design a reality, which now comes priced at approximately $350. Interestingly enough, everyone loves these; they’re so aesthetically captivating that even those who don’t pay much attention to sneakers can’t look away.

They’re almost a perfect replica and a wearable model of the character’s shoes made entirely out of red EVA foam. Unfortunately, unlike their anime counterpart, these only go up to mid-calf in height, lack any MSCHF branding, and don’t have any kind of propulsion system — the lack of the latter is really a shame. Still, one thing can’t be denied. MSCHF’s Astro Boots (not the official name) are the next big fashion trend for footwear and anime fans.

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