The Designer Who's Blurring Gender Lines ... on Your Feet - OZY | A Modern Media Company

The Designer Who's Blurring Gender Lines ... on Your Feet

The Designer Who's Blurring Gender Lines ... on Your Feet

By Eric Pfeiffer

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

Because gender-neutral doesn’t mean style-neutral. 

By Eric Pfeiffer

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.”

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