Infamous for containing a drop of human blood in the soles, the “Satan Shoes” by MSCHF is more a marketing scheme for Lil Nas X’s next music project. Evident in his “Lil Nas X Apologizes for Satan Shoe” YouTube video published on his account, where his “apology” cuts to teaser footage from his new music video. The video shows the rapper lap-dancing on the ‘Devil’ who is sitting on a throne. Lil Nas X then snaps his neck and takes his horns for himself.
The song “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” references X’s real name Montero Lamar Hill, not to mention the Academy Award-winning movie about two male lovers.
The sneaker reference for Lil Nas X is associated with his sexuality. As a rapper, masculinity and sexual preference give way for male artists and many who grew up in the culture of hip-hop are taught at an early age that homosexuality and satanism are somehow related. The openly gay rapper addressed this in a tweet of his coming-to-age for what he once believed.
The sneaker’s mudguard displays the scripture numbers 10:18 for the bible verse for Luke 10:18 that says, “So he told them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” The number 1,018 also relates to the shoe’s retail price at $1,018 per pair, which sold out on its launch day, March 29. The MSCHF and Lil Nas X unofficial Nike sneaker collaboration is numbered on the outer-heel for each of the 666 pairs made.
More demonic accents draw most of the attention of critics and fans. The heel displays MSCHF and Lil Nas X’s name that also appears on the insole around a pentagram, in sigil fashion. There is an upside-down red cross on the exterior tongue tag and a metallic gold pentagram shoe accessory on the laces.
Nike has the most to say in all of this because of the replicated design of the Air Max 97. Nike went ahead and sued the MSCHF art collective for infringement on the namesake and design. Nike has gone beyond its usual “cease and desist” and likely took swift action because of the satanic sentiment stitched into these customized Air Max replicas. Nike said in the lawsuit to be clear that this causes “significant harm to [Nike’s] goodwill, including among consumers who believe that Nike is endorsing satanism.”
What stands out is the most questionable concept behind the shoe. The air bubble of the Air Max 97 design holds 60 cubic centimeters of red ink. One drop of blood is infused with the ink of each sole. The blood is sourced from members of the MSCHF art collective, collected over a week.
Nike has vehemently blocked brands who attempted to build its banks and reputation off Nike sneaker designs. Ari Forman designed a Newport cigarette-pack inspired Air Force One look-alike (at best) in which Nike sent a cease and desist letter. Big tobacco footed the lawyer fees for a lawsuit against Forman in this case. West coast brand Warren Lotas has replicated popular SB Dunk designs before. Lotas kept producing replicas until finally, in October of 2020, the Staple Pigeon x Warren Lotas Reinterpretted OG SB Dunk caused Nike to step in with a lawsuit.
MSCHF has created replica Air Max 97 designs before with the “Jesus Shoes,” the sneaker that held water from the Jordan River in the air bubble, and a tagline that reads “Walk On Water” on the shoe’s website. This time it’s harder for Nike to ask MSCHF for the sold-out 666 pairs to cease. The design goes further than the concept in this case. Connotations are associated with demonic behavior and satanic beliefs, causing harm without reason and displaying negativity at the least.
MSCHF is an art collective known for shocking reinterpretations of existing objects and art. Therefore Nike is taking responsibility for its footprint on culture and action to preserve its historic brand reputation.