How Bowen Yang’s Silver Emmys Boots Were Designed with Queer Asian Pride
Henry Bae had just walked into the queer Bed-Stuy C’mon Everybody bar to see a drag show with friends when Bowen Yang flashed on TV, walking the Emmys red carpet in a dazzling pair of black boots. chrome high heels they designed with Shaobo Han, the other half of the shoe brand SYRO.
âI was just mutilated along with all my friends who were like, ‘Girl, have you seen? Good morning ! Bae told The Daily Beast. âI really felt like we were there, collectively, with that Bushwick energy. The response from my friends was particularly touching.
Han, Bae’s business partner and her “best friend,” was at home watching E! blanket. It was not a total surprise to see Yang in the shoes – Bae and Han describe the SNL star and Emmy winner as the “friend” they know through the “queer Asian nightlife” crowd in New York City. (Bae and Han use their pronouns.)
Everyone came in disguise to win on the fabulous red carpet of the Emmys
Yang’s stylist Ian Bradley let them know that Yang had shot a few outfits. If he opted for a “stronger” outfit, he would tone down the shoes. But eventually, Yang put on a black Zegna suit, which he zhuzh with the big silver heels.
âI think the first thing I thought of was, ‘Wow queer Asians are supporting other queer Asians,â Han said. âNot only did the shoes fit him wonderfully, but it kind of shows how with the red carpets, the Emmys and Hollywood, homosexuality is popping up. We see it with so many other celebrities, and seeing an Asian face from New York is doing the way he did, it’s amazing. There’s a whole generation of young gay Asians looking at this moment like, “He did it, I could do it.”
Bae and Han both said they were crew-necked in DMs and congratulatory notes the day after the Emmys and have seen a spike in interest since Yang’s name dropped the label.
âWe have so many people asking about shoes today,â Bae said. âUnfortunately, those [silver] some are exhausted; we only have them available in black. We are working to make accessible heels in a range of accessible sizes at an affordable price for the greatest number, so all of our heels are always made in black.
Han added that “a lot” of the people who write after the Emmys “cater to small parts of the United States.” The co-founders of SYRO (pronounced “See-row”, like “zero” with an “S”) stress the importance of their chosen families and the queer community in New York, but recognize that it is not a resource for LGBT people who do not live in large cities.
âThere are people in Oklahoma and Kansas who are learning that there are other people who are living authentic lives,â Han said. “For me, it’s the most beautiful thing to achieve – for queer people who don’t have a community to know that we are everywhere.”
Bae and Han met on Facebook; the pair became especially close after Bae moved to New York City in 2015. The two ruled their brand from their beloved Bushwick. Bae leads the shoe design; Han is in charge of operations.
âTo keep it short and sweet, Henry does the whole design, and I’m pretty in the shoes,â Han said.
Bae laughed at it, saying, âIt’s all a collaboration, a conversation. I’m a super creative person, but I’m the type to stay awake all night and disappear for a few days. What Shaobo brings to the table is business growth.
The design process is simple: the two founders wonder what kind of shoes they want in their wardrobe. It is an exercise in expressing desire but also function: it can be difficult for gay people to find shoes in larger sizes that suit their feet, so SYRO offers looks in which they cannot. – not to be sneaking away otherwise.
âI’m going to say, ‘I think I need a white boot,â Bae said. âOr, I want something very grunge, because I’m mad at the world now. Or, something. that looks hardcore because the world is falling apart and I have to make sure my heels can carry me through all the rubble. Or, I’ve never had a chance to have a little heel in. my size and it’s so wise and feminine, I want it now.
The idea behind Yang’s boots: âWe wanted shoes that scream, ‘I’m here!’ Bae said. âSometimes wearing a black pump to the grocery store isn’t enough. Sometimes you need those six inch black pumps to be silver.
Bae and Han both grew up in Asian-American families who expected them to conform to a rigid gender expression. âI would sneak into my garage or my mom’s closet to try on the shoes she had on,â Bae said, an experience Han also remembers.
âWearing heels in my home, which was a hotbed of Korean immigrants, was definitely not something I dared let anyone else see,â Bae added. âI just knew I was breaking some rules. This kind of formative experience accompanies me every day that I do this work. I can’t believe I’m allowed to explore heels in sizes that actually suit me. That’s not how it turned out for me growing up.
Han liked Bae’s use of the phrase “breaking a rule” when it came to portraying men in heels. âTo see Bowen wearing SYRO on the red carpet is totally ‘breaking a rule’,â they said. “Not only for a gay person to do this, but for a gay Asian person to do it in public, it’s huge.”
âAs an Asian person, or Asian man, there is a restriction on female presentation,â Bae said. They noted a recent headline they saw on NPR: âChina bans sissy men from TVâ. The state-run television regulatory group has ruled that “broadcasters must resolutely end sissies and other freak aesthetics” as part of a crackdown on national ‘morals’ .
âSo it means a lot to see femininity represented in such an odd way,â Bae added.
The first time Bae proudly wore heels outdoors was out of college and at a pride parade in Portland, Oregon. âI found these huge glittery heels that my big feet would fit in,â they recalled. âThey were crushed and crushed, but I felt amazing. This was the start of my search for heels that fit my big foot in adult life.
Both founders are active on Instagram and have many internet fans with whom they have cultivated a sense of belonging. While they say queer representation is crucial on the red carpet, it doesn’t go any further. Bae cited Michaela Coel’s powerful Emmy acceptance speech for best writing in I can destroy you.
âShe said something like, visibility is appreciated but it’s OK to disappear,â Bae said. âWe’re very active on social media for our brand because we want to showcase images of existing and successful queer people. But you have to ask yourself: how does this seep into our real lives? It’s a conversation we’re having about what community really means, what it means to find and engage with people.
âIt goes beyond ‘performance’,â Han added. âCommunity values ââare such a specific thing. It’s about such small things: checking in with your gay friends. Be gentle with them. Intangible things go a long way.
SYRO has already made fans of Yang, Billy Porter, Tommy Dorfman, Christopher John Rodgers, Sam Smith, Troye Sivan and Adam Lambert. âThey are like icons of our time and in our community, it’s crazy,â Bae said. âCollectively listing their names is beyond me. “
RuPaul also has a pair. He bought them in the most RuPaul way imaginable. âWe missed his order for just one drop because we had so many,â Bae said. âSo RuPaul wrote us an email that said, ‘Hey bitches, keep me a pair. -Ru. ‘ Then I went back to the controls and saw that RuPaul Andre Charles had already bought them. So I screamed.
The world’s most famous drag queen was also at the Emmys last night alongside Yang. âHe saw Bowen Yang walk on that stage and I hope he said, ‘Hey girl, I have these shoes too,’â Bae said.
So who to dress now? âI would love to see straight cis men wearing our shoes,â Han said. âMaybe someone like Harry Styles who follows that line. Heels are a garment that shouldn’t have gender and shouldn’t be limited to homosexuality.
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