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You won't find a pair of Syro boots with a heel smaller than five inches. Some styles, like the silver-sequin Kitten Disco — a fabulously glittery, ankle-high specimen complete with wrap-around fringe — even clock in at six. The appropriately named shoe is perfect for the grooviest nightclub in town, or, according to Co-Founder Shaobo Han, any ol' errand.

"Syro shoes are meant to be worn walking down the aisles of the local grocery store," says Han. "We aim to normalize feminine expression for our queer customers. Off-stage, beyond the runway, onto the streets — that's where you'll find us. That's the real deal."

Since its launch in 2016, Syro has designed and produced high-heels in exclusively large sizes, ranging from U.S. men's 8 to 14. Now, nearly eight years in, Syro remains what Han calls "a self-serving endeavor," in that it caters to a vastly underserved population of the footwear market, one that includes Han and their co-founder, Henry Bae.

"The Syro mission is a deeply personal one to us both because we have shared experiences as queer youth growing up in a homophobic, queerphobic society," says Han, who was born in Southwest China and grew up in Flushing, Queens. They met Bae online during their freshman year of college. "Liberating and exploring femininity is intrinsic to our growth, and something we've empowered ourselves to champion alongside our queer community. It goes beyond any fashion trend or marketable product."

Within fashion, Syro is part of a new generation of footwear brands offering inclusive sizing for an inclusive customer base — a kind of progress that's long overdue. While advocates and activists have brought about gradual strides in expanded garment sizing, footwear has remained a kind of final frontier.

This, as it turns out, comes down to the numbers: It's more expensive to craft larger shoes than it is smaller ones, and many companies aren't willing to invest in these increased production costs without a proven return. The case studies are there, though, and labels like Han's aren't just deconstructing archaic gender lines and sizing norms — they're doing so accessibly, ensuring that all those who wish to participate are able to.

The Syro Kitten Black boot, which comes in U.S. men's sizes 8 to 14.

The Syro Kitten Black boot, which comes in U.S. men's sizes 8 to 14.

The average American female is somewhere between an 8.5 and a 9 in shoes, while for men, the average shoe size is thought to be around a 10.5. This is widely reflected at retail, especially in luxury: At Net-a-Porter, for example, a boot like the ones Syro might create only go up to a U.S. women's 13; heels aren't available at its mens-focused site, Mr Porter, whose footwear selection caps out at a U.S. men's 15.

But true inclusivity goes beyond shoe size. It also extends to factors like the width of the sole and, for boots, the width of the calves; the latter has been a big focus of the size-inclusive community of late. Wide-calf boots have become more common throughout retail as a result — brands like Sam Edelman and Stuart Weitzman now offer wide- and narrow-width boots — but they're not yet an industry standard. And the footwear market remains incredibly gender-normative, with inclusively-sized heels (adorning boots or not) being quite hard to come by at mass multi-brand retailers. The exception, of course, is one Rick Owens, whose towering platforms often clock in at the four-digit range.

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The way we discuss footwear sizing is also systemically gendered: How we talk about how big or small a shoe is can't be divorced from a binary understanding of the shape and size of "women's" and "men's" feet, in general. 

Sadi Studios is a newly-launched footwear brand that offers all shoe styles in U.S. women's sizes 5 to 16 and caters to all bodies and gender expressions. It aims to curb inaccessible pricing by adjusting its supply chain accordingly: Like Syro, it works with a family of factories in China that share the brand's mission of accommodating a wide breadth of customers and experiences, which, as the brand explains, allows for a more accessible price point of under-$300. 

"With size-inclusive footwear, it does become more expensive with every last, every heel mold, every outsole mold you open," says footwear-design veteran Soyeon "Sarah" Ahn Ianni, who co-founded Sadi Studios with her husband, business developer Dominic Ianni, and previously cut her teeth at Central Saint Martins and London College of Fashion. (The specifics of sizing are dictated by the shoe's last, or a mold carved from wood or plastic that emulates a foot to give the shoe its shape.) "The leather consumption is way more with a woman's size 16 shoe compared to a woman's size 5 shoe, so the supplier's like, 'Are you going to pay more for this?' And I don't think that's very fair. You shouldn't have to pay more for your shoes just because you wear a bigger size."

Sadi Studios offers shoe styles, including those pictured above, in U.S. women's size 5 to 16.

Sadi Studios offers shoe styles, including those pictured above, in U.S. women's size 5 to 16.

To craft its shoes, Sadi Studio's Chinese production partners use a combination of leather and recycled plastics before shipping pieces to the U.S. for direct-to-consumer distribution. Beyond boots, the brand offers heels, sandals and more in a candy-colored medley of shades, and with no shortage of embellishments. Its Jin heel — a statement piece made with bedazzled clear Perspex and silk moire — is appropriate for one's wedding day. Both Sarah and Dominic say the brand's block heels make for comfortable all-day wear.

"I'm wearing one of the black boots daily," says Dominic. "We want to add other styles that have more of a daily function, as well as some really fun stuff that's like, 'Okay, I'm going out. I want to really turn heads.'"

Eventually, both Sarah and Dominic predict that inclusive footwear sizing will hit the mass market, if only because consumers won't leave retailers any other choice. Han, the Syro co-founder, is also optimistic, arguing that, as gender fluidity becomes more widely accepted in mainstream Western culture, it's only a matter of time before existing commercial brands incorporate inclusive sizing for all genders. (Han offers the example of Jeffrey Campbell.)

But before that can happen, Dominic says that brands like Sadi Studios have to prove they're successful in the first place, and that's all part of the plan.

"We need people to respect what we're doing, to make a name for ourselves in the industry. Then I feel like other brands will take note and say, 'This is something we need to offer,'" says Dominic. "And ultimately, that's what we want. We want this industry to shift because it will be better for more people."

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