Photos courtesy of Local Heroes and Valfré; Illustrated by Ji Lim

In Defense Of Larger-Than-Life Phone Cases

A brief rant

Apple knew what it was doing when it released the iPhone without any sort of protection. That decision, in and of itself, presented yet another issue off of which the tech giant could capitalize: the need for a case. This was annoying at first—like, another thing to spend money on? Ugh. But, of course, soon enough designers from across the board—independent and big brand—were producing phone cases that we could actually covet. Hey, what better way to address your annoyance than by dressing it up?

Then, in the last couple of years, phone cases as accessories have really started to become a thing. "Five years ago, there was this real boom for the iPhone cases," Karolina Słota, the director of Local Heroes, a cheeky streetwear brand producing some of the most iconic cases today, says. "It all started with printed cases that everyone was posting on Tumblr." These were your run-of-the-mill cases that hugged your iPhone and boasted tongue-in-cheek slogans and unique patterns. Local Heroes, Słota tells me, happens to be one of the first companies to have really made a dent in the phone case market. "When we saw the reaction, and how people were commenting [and] reposting, we knew that iPhone cases were going to be big." 

Of course, they were! Anyone who says they don't love a chance to personalize something, even if it means buying a case no one else has, is lying to you. Now you can make a case out of just about anything, transforming your basic rectangular device into a seashell, a rainbow, a milk carton, a lipstick, a Pop-Tart, a whathaveyou. Phone cases are an extension of your personality, the same way a necklace, bracelet, or even shoelaces are. And they're definitely easier to switch up than your hair color.

"I've always had something protecting my phone, but didn't realize it could also complement my style and even my outfit," Słota says. Which, same. "Back when we launched the brand, most phone case companies were making simple protective cases," Valfré, the brand that propelled the obnoxious iPhone case to fame, says. 

For me, though, that realization didn't come until my first over-the-top case fell into my lap. Despite my design background, form doesn't necessarily always follow function in my world, and since my hand—rather than a pocket—is usually wrapped around my phone, I don't actually need it to fit into tight spaces. Thus, larger-than-life phone cases are quickly becoming a part of my identity. I'm building up a collection of cases to fit months, seasons, and personal vibes. (I currently have Valfré's shell phone case because it's July and that means beach weather.) They're big, yes, but they're not cumbersome.

Size, after all, does matter. You should still be able to perform the basic functions when using one, like text, take a selfie, plug in your headphones, connect to a charger. "I am a visual person, and by nature, I am more drawn to the design aspect first," Valfré says. "But functionality is also very important [to me,] and we wouldn't ever produce something that isn't completely functional." I once had a fuzzy pink phone case that wasn't necessarily big, but it hindered my service. No good! (The selfies, though, were pretty dope.) In Słota's world, you should be able to use the cases every day. "For me, it's all about whatever you feel comfortable with," she says. "I love the idea of personalizing your phone and having different iPhone cases, but if someone is not a fan that's fine with me!" 

I second that, but also don't kill my vibe. I will protect my phone however I want to, and if that means transforming it into a frozen coffee-looking drink thing, then so be it. "My artwork and brand are based out of humor and are meant to be ridiculous and fun statement pieces," says Valfré. Hey, at least my phone's safe from damage. And, also, it's large enough it won't get lost or be left behind anywhere. Plus, it looks fun and campy and lets the world know that I am the same. (I think?) Okay, end rant. (Phone)Case closed.