them. by Alok
The only representations of people like me I had access to growing up were cartoon villains and mythological folklore. I’m talking about HIM from Power Puff Girls, the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, and Big Foot — characters often misunderstood and demonized for not being legible by the gender binary. “What hairy arms you have, grandma!” “What big feet you have!” Gender-nonconformity only existed in the margins — a distortion of proper proportions, a departure (and that’s being polite!) from conventional hetero/cis/white femininity.
As a gender-nonconforming transfeminine person, I spend a lot of my time trying to wrestle my body into clothing, shoes, and makeup that were never made with me in mind. This involves copious amounts of calluses, rips in fabric, and crises where I am literally stuck in an article of clothing, having to beckon a friend to unzip me so that my shoulders can be free! It can be disheartening and defeating, to say the least. It already takes so much motivation to come into our genders, but then we are confronted with a whole new set of obstacles when we try to externalize them.
When I started to present as more femme, I searched long and wide for heels that could fit my size 10 men’s / size 12 women’s feet (because feet have genders now, too?). I often purchased smaller-size shoes just because they were so close. I would call these shoes my “photo shoot heels,” because truth be told, I couldn’t really walk or move in them. One time I literally had to rub my foot in coconut oil so I could slide my toes through this particularly beautiful, red, high-heeled sandal. Okay, let me be more specific: I had to have three friends help me maneuver into this heel even while my foot was well-lubricated! Allyship in action! The drama!
That’s probably why, when I discovered SYRO shoes, a new gender-neutral heel line designed for people with larger feet in mind, I totally freaked out! I had been waiting for this forever. I had almost given up hope waiting every year for some prominent cis-woman model to draw attention to the plight of the big-foot girls, and take a step in the right direction. But here we were again — queer and trans femmes — doing it for ourselves.
“Syro” is derived from “anasyromenos,” which refers to the iconographic tradition in Hellenistic artwork of lifting a skirt to reveal ‘male’ genitals. Typically associated with female divinities, the pose was believed to have magical powers, averting the evil eye and bestowing good luck. For the folks behind SYRO, the name implies a powerful, contemporary union of the sexes where strength and beauty are celebrated with no regard to gender. That is why on the bottom of every SYRO shoe there is a small penis insignia. This commitment to finding harmony where others see dissonance, magnificence where others see monstrosity, and femme where others see masc is integral to the brand.
In this fashion moment where gender-nonconformity is in vogue (literally!), it is so refreshing for a small business led by queer femme designers of color to be on the frontlines of creating gender-neutral wear. With names like “DAVE” and “GEORGE,” to multiple-inch platform heels and slogans like “just say NO to patriarchy,” SYRO brings a much needed sense of queer panache and fun to the table. Heels are for everyone! Take that, misogyny! jabs with red snake 3.5 inch BRUCE heel
At just two years old, SYRO has already sold over a thousand pairs, designed eight styles, and discovered (and built) a loyal base with their irresistible charm and aesthetic. In the future, they hope to offer more designs and build a wider base so they can make their shoes more affordable for everyone. Their work is influential not just because it fills a void, but because it presents an alternative representation of queer/trans femininity that is beautiful and sufficient unto itself.
The first time I wore DAVE I cried. I looked in the mirror, and for the first time in a long time I made sense and I felt beautiful, not like the monstrous impostor I have always been made to feel. Now I can’t take them off! My favorite is wearing them in airports, just running around in a casual 5.5 inch heel, tugging my luggage behind me, rushing to the gate as everyone looks. Who is that girl at the airport? Who is she? What is she doing? Sometimes we give looks to get looks — to confound expectation and open up the possibility of new worlds. “A Big Foot sighting reported at JFK Terminal 3…” and they’re fabulous!
Meeting the demand of a market that has been ignored and misunderstood, SYRO is unstoppable. With a new move to New York City, it’s only higher up from here.
ALOK is a gender-nonconforming writer, performance artist, and fashionista with a lot of feelings.
Originally posted on them.us