Cartoon Characters’ Sneakers, Ranked

July 8, 2015

Cartoon Characters’ Sneakers, Ranked

Kanye West’s new shoe design for Adidas is a one piece upper on a one piece sole with oversized laces–although the technical fabrication is complicated it’s about as conceptually straightforward a post-Tinker Hatfield sneaker design can be. And it reminds me of a cartoon sneaker, because animation historically demands simple, solid shapes that can be drawn and redrawn easily. Look at Mickey Mouse’s weird overshoes, which go all the way back to Steamboat Willie. (Why does Mickey wear gloves
and shoes, anyway? It would be weird to see his little mouse claws, right?) Which got me thinking about (and inevitably, ranking) characters’ footwear.

8. Doug Funnie’s chucks, Doug

Key to most cartoon characters’ clothing is genericness. True of nearly any TV or film–most clothing is unlogo-ed and free of proprietary design, so as not to imply endorsement or give it away for free. And the Converse Chuck Taylor is the ur-sneaker–its white midsole and rubber toecap both instantly recognizable and instantly forgettable. Chucks also enjoyed a resurgence in the mid 1990s, so they fit in fine with Doug’s inoffensive but now dated nerd-iform of sweater vest over a tshirt and khaki shorts, and tube socks. Many, many cartoon characters wear chuck-like sneakers–Bobby Generic, Arthur, Gerald, etc. With their exaggerated shape and big toecap, Doug’s actually look a lot like Rick Owens’ more chuck-esque sneakers.

Closest analogue: Chuck Taylor All Star Ox Low

7. Chris Griffin’s Skechers, Family Guy

I don’t know for a fact Chris wears Skechers, but they would fit with his suburban-idiot-circa-2002 aesthetic.

Closest real life analogue: Skechers Urbantrack

6. Jonny Quest’s white slipons, Jonny Quest

Is Jonny wearing Engineered Garments Vans? Unclear. Shout out to Race Bannon’s harness boots though.

Closest real life analogue: Vans slips

5. Philip J. Fry’s Vans-alikes, Futurama

Fry’s black sneakers seem to have laces and an evenly proportioned outsole. They’re plain and contemporary without being specific.
Fry is allegedly modeled after James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, but
I guess putting him in a pair of Jim Stark-appropriate engineer or western boots would’ve given Fry a toughness that would be out of sync with his character.

Closest real life analogue: Vans Era

4. Bart’s… shoes, The Simpsons

Bart’s sneakers confusing–they have Chuck-like circle at the inner ankle, but no toecap. And are they hightops or low? After 342 seasons of the Simpsons, we still don’t know for sure. They’re the same color as his shorts. Are they denim? Is Bart wearing jorts? It seems like that should mean something.

Closest real life analogue: Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Low

3. Doug’s Air Jets, Doug

Doug tried to illustrate a lesson in each episode. In this 1991 ep, Doug becomes convinced his chucks are lame and that he needs trendy sneakers to stay relevant, to the point that he tries to stretch his budget and buy shoes that don’t even fit him, so long as they’re the right ones, a situation I’m sure no one reading this can identify with. The lesson of this one was basically “you don’t need fancy stuff to impress the right people.” Which is a pretty good one, but one that obviously didn’t stick with me because I buy expensive sneakers I already know I don’t need all the damn time.

Closest real life analogue: Clearly supposed to be Air Jordan parodies, but the design reminds me more of Converse’s early 1990s designs

2. Granddad’s Nikes, Boondocks

One of the few cartoons to explicitly reference a brand, Boondocks had Granddad get and sing about his new Nikes until he encounters a Buggin’ Out scuffed shoe situation.

Closest real life analogue: Nike Air Force 1 low

1. Homer’s Assassins, The Simpsons

The undisputed champ of cartoon sneaker design is the Assassin, which Homer covets in a 1991 episode of the Simpsons (1991: a big year for cartoon writers to be scandalized by sneakers). They’re amalgams of Air Trainers, Jordans, and Reebok Pumps, with black and red accents and “a water pump in the tongue.” At $125, they’d be $218 in 2015, putting them in not-quite-Common-Projects territory. Common Projects should come with little vanity plates.

Closest reallife analogue: Nike Air Trainers or, after-the-fact, Raf Simons 2008 sneaker boots