What could possibly connect rapper Lil Nas X, shoe company Nike and … sneakers made with human blood? Strap in for a brief explanation of one of 2021’s most unusual and colorful news stories.
Musician Lil Nas X collaborated with streetwear company MSCHF on a quickly sold-out offering of what the company dubbed Satan Shoes. They not only have a devil-focused theme (more on that below) but contain a drop of human blood (drawn from MSCHF employees), the company confirmed to NBC.
Because the shoes are apparently modified Nikes, the company didn’t appreciate its brand being associated with human blood and the devil. Duh. The company confirmed Monday it’s filed a trademark claim against MSCHF and wants it known that this isn’t officially sanctioned by Nike.
Representatives for Lil Nas X and MSCHF didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Now, let’s break this down.
Lil Nas X
Lil Nas X, who’s 21 years old, is perhaps best known for his enormous 2019 hit song, the Western-themed Old Town Road. In August 2019, the catchy tune set a record for the longest-running No. 1 single in Billboard Hot 100 history, spending 19 weeks on top before falling to Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy. Even if you don’t listen to country or rap, you may have heard about the song thanks to commercial, which pays homage to the tune.
In the song, Lil Nas X briefly mentions that traditional Western footwear, cowboy boots. (“Hat is matte black/Got the boots that’s black to match,” he croons.) But he’s now making news for a different kind of shoe.
The devil-themed shoes follow Lil Nas X’s release of a devil-themed music video for his song Montero (Call Me by Your Name). The video was posted to YouTube on March 25 and has gotten more than 37 million views in less than a week. (It’s not family friendly — you’ve been warned.)
Trendy, limited-edition sneakers have been a hot item for a while, and streetwear company MSCHF would seem to be firing on all cylinders when it collaborated with Lil Nas X on what they call Satan Shoes. There were only 666 pairs made, since 666, according to the Bible, is the number of the beast, meaning, the devil, or Satan. The shoes are mostly black with red accents and feature devil references. A pentagram charm hangs from each pair, and they also have “Luke 10:18” written on them — a verse from the Gospel of Luke that reads, essentially, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like lightning.”
But the human blood…
The devilish aspects of the shoe design might be enough to disturb some. But the ante went way, way up when actual blood from “about six” MSCHF employees was mixed into the shoe’s soles, as The New York Times reported on Sunday.
Daniel Greenberg, one of MSCHF’s founders, told the newspaper that a drop of blood is mixed in with ink that fills an air bubble in the sneaker, which is a Nike Air Max 97. He then gave the newspaper an iconic quote when asked who drew the blood: “Uhhhhhh yeah hahah not medical professionals we did it ourselves lol.”
It’s not the first time a company has done the human blood-added-to-a-product gimmick. Fans of the band KISS will remember that back in 1977, band members also had their blood drawn and mixed with the red ink used to print a Marvel Comics KISS comic book. Would you have expected any less from the musicians who want to rock and roll all night, and party every day?
Don’t expect to buy a pair
You’re not going to be wearing these shoes any time soon, or even seeing someone else wear them. As noted, only 666 pairs were made, they were priced at an eye-watering $1,018 (£739, AU$1,334) and sold out in less than a minute.
However, MSCHF seems to have held back one pair, and its website announces it will give away that final pair via some kind of lottery or random drawing on April 1. (Yes, April Fools’ Day — is this a joke?) To enter the giveaway, the company asks readers to tweet about the shoes, and then pre-fills the tweet with “I love Satan.” So if you want that in your Twitter history, tweet away.
Lil Nas X himself tweeted late Monday, “if u want the 666th pair of the satan shoes quote this tweet and use #satanshoes to be entered and I’ll pick someone by thursday.”
If you’re Nike, and you recognize your shoe being used in a style that’s this controversial, you almost certainly have to step up and say something.
“Nike filed a trademark infringement and dilution complaint against MSCHF today related to the Satan Shoes,” a representative for Nike said in a statement sent to CNET on Monday. “We don’t have any further details to share on pending legal matters. However, we can tell you we do not have a relationship with Lil Nas X or MSCHF. The Satan Shoes were produced without Nike’s approval or authorization, and Nike is in no way connected with this project.”
Mischief from MSCHF
Streetwear companies live for controversy and hot products, and this isn’t MSCHF’s first Old Town rodeo. Earlier, it sold out a modified Nike shoe called Jesus Shoes that contained holy water. That shoe’s Bible quote was Matthew 14:25, which mentions Jesus walking on water to reach his disciples. The Gospel account doesn’t specify what shoes he was wearing.
Lil Nas X reacts
A representative for Lil Nas X didn’t respond to a request for an official comment. But in addition to tweeting about the shoe giveaway, as mentioned above, the musician has been tweeting jokes about the Nike lawsuit. One tweet shows Squidward of SpongeBob SquarePants sitting in a cardboard box begging for money and is captioned, “me after the Nike lawsuit.”