By Charles Passy
What does your taste in shoes say about you? Quite a lot, apparently — especially if you’re representing a popular candy brand.
M&M’s, the iconic chocolate treat that’s part of the privately-held Mars, Inc. portfolio, announced this week that it’s updating the look of its colorful, anthropomorphic characters. The goal is to offer a “fresh, modern take” that underscores “the importance of self-expression,” according to the press release .
And the changes drawing the most attention have to do with shoes — specifically, the heels worn by the green and brown M&Ms, who are the only two female characters in the mix. The former is kicking off her white go-go boots for a pair of sneakers, while the latter has switched from stilettos to a more practical pair of pumps. It’s all part of highlighting the character’s personalities instead of their gender, the company says , and making the mascots “more inclusive, welcoming, and unifying.”
The green and brown M&Ms also reintroduce themselves on the M&M’s site .
“I think we all win when we see more women in leading roles,” the green one says.
“Not bossy. Just the boss,” says the brown one.
Fashion and style experts say the changes clearly reflect a goal to make the female mascots less sexualized. The old look “was kind of a male version of what women are,” says Kathy Kelada, a fashion-conscious life coach and author of the book “Be the Shoe.” Now, she says, the mascots speak to a more contemporary ideal of femininity. “It’s a step in the right direction,” she says.
But not everyone agrees.
Phillip Bloch, a veteran celebrity stylist and fashion designer, says that while M&M’s goal may appear admirable, the new design — especially for the green M&M — is “underwhelming.” He says the white sneakers resemble orthopedic shoes, and that the brand should have considered footwear with more style or panache.
“It’s not a makeover. It’s a make-under,” says Bloch, who also notes that the white boots previously worn by the green M&M are actually on-trend this season.
Similarly, Shira Tarrant, a political scientist who focuses on gender and sexual politics, describes the green M&M’s new shoes as “a bit frumpy.” Still, Tarrant applauds the brand for “chipping away at our assumptions about femininity.”
Commentators on social media have had a field day chewing on the new looks. In fact, “M&Ms” were trending on Twitter (NYS:TWTR) throughout both Thursday and Friday.
“I am a single issue voter and my issue: KEEP THE GREEN M&M A HOT SEXY LADY,” tweeted one .
Others expressed frustration that the M&Ms rebrand was getting so much attention.
Leon Elias Wu, a Los Angeles-based fashion designer who’s known for his work with the LGBTQ+ community, says that if M&Ms really wanted to be daring and more inclusive, it could have kept the go-go boots, but let them be worn by a male mascot. “You could switch things around,” he says.
Some shoppers have also accused the brand of being too politically correct, or not being true to the mascots’ fun identity.
The mascots aren’t just getting a physical makeover; their personalities are also being tweaked in order to be more inclusive. The red M&M will be less of a bully, for example, while the more anxious orange M&M will “embrace his true self, worries and all” and “acknowledge his anxiety.”