Why you should care
Because gender-neutral doesn’t mean style-neutral.
Mindy Dawn Friedman’s wedding was on the horizon. Everything was in place, except for one important detail: the right shoes. Identifying as a cisgendered female, Friedman prefers suits and oxfords to dresses and heels. And while there are male clothing options, although limited, for a 5-foot-2 frame, shoes are more challenging to find.
[T]hese were the shoes I had been waiting my whole life to put on.
Mindy Dawn Friedman
That’s where 40-year-old Nik Kacy comes in. While the term “gender neutral” might conjure thoughts of Crocs, Kacy wanted to offer something more to the estimated 1 million to 3 million transgender persons in the U.S. whose feet may not fit into the monolithic contours of shoe design. Born in Hong Kong and currently residing in Los Angeles, Kacy, a former Google employee and advertising industry veteran who identifies as gender fluid, spent years researching footwear options for those who don’t easily fold into physical norms. Last year, Kacy launched a Kickstarter campaign for the Nik Kacy Fortune line, masculine in style and what Kacy calls “masculine of center,” meaning designed to fit the feet of those born as female, with a more narrow toe and arch and a shorter size overall. The campaign was a success, surpassing its funding goal of $30,000 and generating buzz in the LGBTQ community. A review on DapperQ, a queer-style website, called the line “impeccable.” To Kacy’s surprise, much of his of support came from the Philippines, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. “This was a global issue,” Kacy says.
A pair runs between $300 and $400 and are crafted from genuine leather and other high-end materials; the styles range from boot to derby. Because each shoe is made to detailed specifications, they don’t ship overnight, and custom orders are pricey compared with large-scale, standardized requests. But for many, the wait is worth it. “When I put them on, I couldn’t stop staring,” Friedman told me, noting that Kacy personally ensured on-time, pre-wedding delivery. “I told my wife these were the shoes I had been waiting my whole life to put on.”
Later this year, Kacy plans to launch a “feminine of center” line that will offer feminine options, including high heels, to individuals born male. Kacy also recently completed work on a gender-neutral leather holster wallet, which will be part of a growing list of accessories. And while much of the buzz has been from the LGBTQ community, Kacy says gender-neutral footwear is meant for anyone who hasn’t quite found that perfect fit. “When I opened that customized shoe box before my wedding,” says Friedman, “it was a feeling like opening my first-ever Christmas present.”