As DIY footwear continues to flood our Instagram feeds, we ask the meme’s creator about the sudden urge to replace heels with meat, marble, and kittens.
In late December, an Instagram user with the handle @m.sty posted a picture of an arched foot standing on a bronze statuette, with the caption #heelconcept. The internet kept working. But seven weeks later and there are suddenly 660 images of found-object shoe creations and counting. This weekend, your feed may have brought you a weirdly lo-fi image of someone standing on a Furby, a hunk of meat, a pile of hair curlers, a wedge of pizza, a pencil, or (the most meta) a shoe emoji. The hashtag is now a growing catalogue of ideas for new kinds of artful, implausible footwear. But what does it all mean? We called up Misty Pollen, aka @m.sty, to find out.
So how does it feel to have birthed a meme?
It just feels right, you know?
There are over 660 posts now. Is that crazy to you?
Yeah, I guess so. It's still something I just like doing for myself — and I still like mine the best!
What do you do when you're not creating heel concepts?
I'm an artist and a textile designer. Recently, I've collaborated with the Melbourne-based label Rare Candy and exhibited in San Francisco and Berlin. I'm also going to be filming an episode of a television show later this month.
What was the impetus for creating your first "shoe"?
I was doing a lot of self-portraiture. In the past I've also made and abandoned a lot of sculptures, which just kind of float around in my life. So the first image I posted was using a bronze sculpture that I had made. It was just the right size to step on.
Someone posted the comment "proletariat wedge" under that photo. Does #heelconcept have a democratic mission?
Well obviously it's limited by the need to have access to Instagram. In my own work I make a lot of things from scratch. I've experimented with plant dyes recently, and macramé. I repair a lot of vintage clothes. I've gotten really into darning. So I'm definitely more interested in how to take things that already exist and renew them. #heelconcept is a clash of those beliefs: it involves taking objects and making them new but it also distances the things from where they came from using a form of technology that is very momentary. There's a built-in obsolescence.
What's been the most interesting part of watching the meme spread?
I just like thinking about which ones I would wear!
What are your favourites?
The one with a sprouted potato. It was created by a friend of mine named Caley Feeney. Her handle is @puffy_vest. And there's another that involves a sock with a chain safety pinned to it to make the stiletto heel. That's such a different thought from my initial one, which was about finding an object that I could really stand on. It just fully embraces the reality that's created by the image. I love how simple it is.
How would you explain #heelconcept to your parents?
There is definitely an element of it that is perplexing to people who don't have a native understanding of what it means to live online. Whenever I tell my grandmother about anything I'm doing with people I've met on the internet — which, increasingly, is almost all of my professional activity — her reaction is always, "Be careful! People on the internet are creeps!" She doesn't come from a world where people lead half their lives online. I was born in 1989 so I always had the internet. I was using AOL instant messenger when I was 12-years-old.
Would you call #heelconcept internet art? Or fashion?
I get very excited about the idea of being a shoe designer. But it's almost like the shoe I designed was a hashtag. It's something completely immaterial, it's a formula for something that in no other context would be considered a shoe. So I think it makes sense as fashion, which has so much to do with styling and illusion.
Text Alice Newell-Hanson