Chicago high school teacher Curtis Martin has gone viral on TikTok — and not just for education, but for his shoe choices.
The science educator, who teaches at Thornton Township High School, has made waves on social media by connecting with his students over his colorful shoe choices — which have included MSCHF’s viral Big Red Boots.
The sold-out $350 style features tall shafts and whimsically rounded toes with smooth flat soles, crafted from its signature bright red TPU rubber for a cartoon-worthy finish. Martin’s use of the shoes has included their position as a prize, where students can wear the humorous footwear by answering review questions near the end of the spring semester — where attendance and interest are often low prior to summer break.
“At the end of the year, they kind of start shutting down, so I thought ‘I’ll just wear a cool pair of shoes,’ because we were talking about shoes, and kids were coming up ‘Hey, we just came to look at your shoes’ and I was like ‘Huh, that’s very interesting,’” Martin told ABC7 News, “and the next day I wore another pair and it kind of just snowballed.”
As he’s continued wearing his Big Red Boots since April, Martin has amassed a 17,000-person-strong TikTok following, which he hopes will positively impact both how his students and the public view education.
“I hope the reason behind it is not just the shoes,” Martin told ABC7. “The connection with student teacher is crucial, especially nowadays. There’s a lot of different avenues that our teachers are using now to try to engage, we have to because that’s our job.”
MSCHF’s Big Red Boots, inspired by video games and cartoons including “Astro Boy,” went viral and sold out upon their initial release on Feb. 16. Made from TPU rubber with an EVA mid-outsole, the red pair gained instant notoriety for their bold color and whimsical appearance — even amassing a celebrity following, worn by stars including Ciara, Lil Wayne, Deebo Samuel, Coi Leray, Diplo, Iggy Azalea, Seth Rollins and Rich the Kid.