The amount of major fashion brands attempting to “challenge the gender binary” has reached a ridiculous peak. As shown by Zara’s shameful “ungendered” range, massive retail corporations should leave moving the cultural needle to communities who’ve been actively fighting against these social norms for decades, considering the roundtable businessmen who make major marketing decisions have probably never talked to a queer person in their life.
Today, Solestruck joined the ranks of bandwagon laziness with SYRO, a newly launched men’s heels line that features five femme styles in larger sizes. “SYRO is founded on the hope of liberating femme identity,” their site explains. “Community is the core of our mission—to encourage the outcasted and unite the oppressed.” While this is a laudable pursuit, there are major holes in the way this footwear’s being presented, making it difficult for us to happily support.
Per usual, the weight of importance has fallen onto cisgender men, though this range will definitely be of greater interest to femme men, transgender women and non-binary individuals. While SYRO attempts to tackle gender, it has blatantly reinforced it, presenting each shoe with a traditional, cisgender male name: Freddie, Dave, Sean, George and Chad. Though some SYRO customers may feel comfortable wearing a shoe marked by a masculine title, most of the brand’s potential audience won’t be pleased donning a platform called, “Sean.” That doesn’t encourage or unite.
The brand has even created quick narratives for each style, one of which reads, “Chad is a classic lady.” Yes, “Chad is a classic lady,” which painfully sounds almost like a title for some satirical YouTube video in support of North Carolina’s anti-LGBTQ bathroom law. While fashionable footwear in men’s sizes is a step in the right direction, we’d argue that SYRO’s taken a very, very small step with a project that could’ve easily been a leap.
Why were men’s names needed to market these shoes? Let’s stop blindly chasing marginalized markets and start considering the complex nuances of gender—less reaching, more thinking.
Update: BULLETT has extended the opportunity for SYRO to respond.
“The traditionally white/cisgender/masculine names of SYRO products were intended to be juxtaposed against the polar lives of SYRO customers. SYRO’s mission is to empower male femininity and reject heteronormative oppression. We thank BULLETT for shedding light upon the potential miscommunications that may stem from our decisions, and hope for unity within the art community in regards to these important conversations.” – Henry Bae, Founder/Creative Director