When Neil Armstrong took his first step on the moon, he clung to the ladder. It was 1969 and nobody knew if the surface would be stable, or if it would be like quicksand, sucking a person into a quagmire of cosmic dust. Some 50 years later and we’re still asking prescient questions. Will there be inflight entertainment on Richard Branson’s jumbo coach to space? Will Jeff Bezos’ fillers migrate into his brain once gravity goes into negative numbers? Is there 5G beyond the ozone layer?
Conversations surrounding space travel have become increasingly aqueous, but the imprint of Armstrong’s boot on the moon’s powdery plane has fossilised. And its grooves can be traced throughout culture today, along high fashion runways and the “For You” page, on archival Instagram accounts and It-girl photo dumps.
In fact, those same tinfoil clodhoppers have been wheeling in and out of orbit for decades, crash landing into the mainstream in the early ’70s when Giancarlo Zanatta, a young designer from northern Italy, produced a padded bootie inspired by the Apollo 11 uniforms. Coinciding with the rise in package holidays and resort destinations, the imaginatively-named Moon Boot was originally made for après ski and the kind of jet-set snow bunnies who baulked at the site of sturdy hiking shoes. With their swollen toes, bolshy colourways and rope-like lacing, the style became a fixture of society slopes, much like yeti boots, its knee-high hirsute counterpart, cheese fondue and dodgy tan lines. By 1986, Zanatta had sold over a million pairs.
Although there are pictures of Paul McCartney wearing Moon Boots at Abbey Road Studios, it wasn’t until two decades later in the early ’90s when the shoe really began to find its footing on the street. By that time, the design had reentered public consciousness as a symbol of retrofuturism, spawning a slew of designer spin-offs from the likes of Chanel, whose AW94, gilt-chained snow boot was put on permanent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. Six years later, the OG Moon Boot was iconised as one of the most “significant design objects” of the 20th century by the Louvre, while Marc Jacobs, Anna Sui, Pucci and Dior soon sent their own clunking imitations down the catwalk in the early 2000s.
In the years that followed, Moon Boots ran the gamut of ’00s subcultures. They were a calling card of Harajuku street stylers, feeding into Snooki’s wardrobe by way of New York’s scene kids, and were even embraced by Paris Hilton’s entourage as part of a more babetastic, McBling vibe. And since these are the kind of images that constantly get spewed up onto the feed, it would be easy to explain the resurgence of Moon Boots in 2022 as part of the catch-all Y2K nostalgia cycle. After all, Dua Lipa, Lourdes Leon and Iris Aptow have all modelled themselves on the image of an early aughts baddie and each has taken to Instagram to show off their bulging booties. Perhaps that’s why, month-on-month, searches for Moon Boots are up 53 per cent, according to Lyst.
But these celebs are not the trendsetters they’re being hawked as; they’re merely evidence of mainstream absorption. The Moon Boot, today, comes via TikTok and Pinterest, where early adopters revived the shoe as part of the #russianbimbocore or #svetlanacore aesthetic, sharing flash photography of Slavic women standing in snowscapes dressed in cream ushankas, Moon Boots and not much else. As niche as this may be, it speaks to the wider influence that Eastern Europe is having on pop culture right now, wherein people wax lyrical about Brutalist architecture and call each other “comrade” on Twitter. Not to mention Demna, Russian TikTok sounds and Lotta Volkova. Kendall Jenner’s Wim Hof bikini pic was a direct nod of the kind of imagery that exists in this corner of the internet. That and Kim Kardashian.
The Slavic Snow Babe was recreated across the AW21 shows, too, namely Miu Miu and Chanel, but also Kim Jones’ Dior, Ottolinger, Chloe, GCDS and Celine, where wadded, hairy and technical moon boots all featured. Team this with an amped-up, fashion-forward marketing strategy from the Moon Boot and a general pivot towards ski wear in luxury, and the crisp white snow has truly settled for a big comeback.
Rooting out the sole cause – or finding meaning in – the shoe’s renaissance, however, is a frustrating and futile process, because online, everything is trending at once. It means that not only has the inaugural Moon Boot been resurrected, but so too has its many offshoots – among them UGG boots and furry rave things – with the trend pipeline crammed with just about everything from just about every era.
This proliferation of stuff has led to a no rules, freaky approach to dressing, which is exactly where the Moon Boot comes into its own, much like its Harajuku forefathers. Today, the leading look is a cartoonish, algorithmically-birthed mayhem, where people dress like IMVU dolls or slutty time travellers. At least, that’s how cool people, like Lil Bitty Livvie, Anny Jas and Clara Perlmutter are wearing their wafflestompers – alongside Y2K, twee, Indie Sleaze and whatever other epoch is circulating on the internet.
Perhaps, then, it won’t be Jeff Bezos or Richard Branson who conquer space, but the TikTok girlies whose maniacal recycling of trends will see time, dimension and physical reality collapse in on itself, bursting open blackholes with every clomp of their big ol’ Moon Boots.