Traditional notions of masculinity and femininity are changing. Gender defiance is on the rise. SYRO is one fashion label breaking down gender barriers with their fearless approach to footwear.
Heels in larger sizes are more than just a trend: they’re a statement. Shaobo Han and Henry Bae, founders of SYRO, have one clear objective: to put more men, trans women, non-binary people and gender-nonconforming people in fearless footwear.
The brand was born from the founders’ inability to find heels that they liked in their size. People with larger shoe sizes have extremely limited options when it comes to femme footwear. Heels in larger sizes have long been a part of the drag, Mardi Gras, Halloween or BDSM markets. Trans women can have a particularly difficult time finding stylish, everyday shoes that fit. SYRO’s mission is to create heels in larger sizes that are chic and suitable for casual wear.
The market for casual heels in larger sizes is growing, particularly among younger generations. Gen Z is leading the charge when it comes to views on gender non-conformity. In fact, it is views on gender that most sets millennials and Gen Z apart, in the US at least.
Queer, non-binary musician Sam Smith, who recently changed their pronouns to they/them, is a notable fan of the designers and their work. The brand has created a community of like-minded queer individuals, brought together by a shared love of self-expression and the gender-affirming power that heels can provide.
Identity and its expression has never been more important than right now. We are at a tipping point, as the world simultaneously becomes more liberated, while conservative forces scramble to wind back progress.
In light of this, many brands are seeking to redefine the conversation around previously gendered items of clothing. SYRO’s motto is: “Refuse femme oppression. Liberate femme expression.” It is a brand for queer people, by queer people of colour.
In an interview with Refinery 29, Han and Bae discussed the brand’s mission. Bae recounted times when wearing heels was both a positive and a negative thing,
“The notion that my heels are a ‘bold’ fashion statement doesn’t register until I leave the house and walk three blocks to my nearest train station to get to wherever I’m going. Along these three blocks, I will get attention. Some inquisitive stares. Some teenage boys laughing, some teenage girls yaaassssing. I’m lucky to say my style has never landed me in physical danger, but the attention does strike me.”
The duo use their lived experiences as queer gender-nonconforming individuals to inform their creations. Han and Bae bonded over their mutual love of fashion and shared experiences of trying on their mother’s clothes as children. They collaborate on everything from design to packing the final orders. The brand hopes to elevate larger-sized heels beyond a mere trend.
Han doesn’t let the stares get him down,
“The more people stare at me, the more powerful I feel. Maybe I am delusional, but I confront danger head-on. Hoping to exert as much presence as possible; to show an obnoxious level of confidence (even if that confidence is false) that will deter possible altercation.”
Gender-inclusivity goes well beyond fashion. But much like art, it is a real, practical way to express oneself and explore identity. Fashion is one way to de-stigmatise and normalise items and traits traditionally coded in gendered ways. Femininity particularly still faces opposition and oppression, even within gay and queer spaces.
As Han explains,
“Wearing heels is an active statement. It is both my armor and shield against patriarchy. I don’t think it grounds me, I think it actually does the opposite. It enables me to be larger than life, and for others to see that femininity should be celebrated.”
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