Even as a kid I felt like a square peg trying to make it in a round peg world. There was an ‘otherness’ that I couldn’t quite place my finger on, but it still loomed large, especially in my fashion sense. I remember my favorite outfit in junior high school that I found with mom at Burlington Coat Factory: bright yellow pants (with a snap vest to match), black polo with fine bright rainbow colored stripes, and a black newsie cap.
When I started shopping for myself, I discovered I was more attracted to the men’s side of the store. I would always walk in the door, pretend to peruse through the women’s section, then find myself browsing through the men’s sale rack. In my mind, I had at the ready some story that I was buying this shirt or those pants for my brother or my dad. Was I afraid that the security guard was going to bust me for buying boxers in a bra?
This coincided with a lifedefining incident for me. I was living in San Francisco and went out to some restaurant in the Marina district with a few friends. As I exited the women’s restroom in my Gap men’s section best, a woman who was walking into the restroom looked at me, then looked at the sign on the door, then back at me. She then said aloud, “Just checking.” Really? In my mind, I honked her breasts and said back to her, “Just checking.” She took the wind out of my sails in San Francisco? Reflecting now upon this incident, I realize I gave too much power both to perception and gender.
Since then, my sense of fashion and style have grown immensely, right alongside my emotional ties with gender identification. Sure, I identify as a woman/female/she. But, when someone mistakes me for anything else, or asks a question around gender, I take these as teachable moments and treat them with extreme grace.
Within the last 5 years, I have elevated my sense of style inspired by Ugly Betty, Shail Upadhya, several Batman villains, and the challenge of a good power clash. At work, I am the founder of Tie Tuesday and Bow Tie Wednesday. When I learned about bespoke clothing, the idea that I could have the stuff that dreams are made of finely tailored to better suit myself, it was like an entirely new world opened to me. And, while I literally have a closet overflowing with shoes, I’ve still always felt like I’ve had to settle for less with that particular fashion exclamation point. Sure, Cole Haan has cool looking wingtip shoes, and John Fluevog has a pair of monk straps in my size, but at a size 7.5, they just look like glorified Capezios. I’ve had to sacrifice comfort for looks, but don’t smallfooted dandies deserve great shoes like everyone else? ?
So, when two separate friends shared NiK Kacy’s KickStarter campaign with me in early March, I knew this was worth a look. I spent a good hour or two browsing through and drooling over his shoe collection. Once I saw The Monk Boot in blue, I was a goner. Before this shoe, the only double monk straps I could find in a women’s 7.5 came with a “minimal” 4 inch pump. No thanks. Finally, I am seeing a true unisex shoe that spans the size spectrumwithout losing the quality or the dapper look.
As I read through NiK’s mission, and watched his KickStarter video, I knew that this guy GOT it. He not only had some of the same fashion challenges that I did, but he was willing to take risks to solve this problem. Being able to express your style and walk your way is essential to feeling confident in the skin you’re in to wear your inner self on the outside. I knew I had to support this campaign. Hearing NiK’s story, and knowing my own, I knew I was not alone. And, it couldn’t just be me and NiK. There must be people all over the world who have tried to force themselves into the existing molds without even realizing how hobbling it is.
Once I backed NiK’s campaign, I received a very touching email expressing true gratitude for my support. Not knowing whether my response would reach NiK himself, I responded and shared why I felt so compelled by his campaign and his vision. I also mentioned that my ‘wife’ and I were going to be getting legally married in Las Vegas in September to remove the quotation marks and truly become wife and wife. More than anything, I felt like wearing a pair of NiK Kacy monk strap boots to get married to Megan at Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel by Elvis... this was a dream that could come true.
The genuine emails and chats I exchanged with NiK revealed to us that we are kindred in spirit, and has led to a beautifully respectful bromance. I understand his dream, and he is bringing mine to life. I became invested not in the shoe itself, but in the mission and vision that launched them. Officially compelled by NiK’s story, following the harrowing final days of his KickStarter campaign as he and his mom were dealing with the eventual passing of his (step) father, I saw conviction, bravery, love, passion, and a community of strangers, friends and family believing in the same thing believing in NiK’s dream becoming a reality. It’s as much a testament to NiK himself as it is to his stylish and groundbreaking Fortune shoe line.
Where I work, one of our tenets is “Room to be Yourself.” Those of us who are square pegs who have been marginalized, disenfranchised, overlooked, or poked at know we are our best selves when we are not forced into that round hole. And, this, in turn, brings out the best in those around us. Walking my way goes a long way to building confidence, trusting myself, and bringing my A-game wherever I go. To see NiK’s support, dedication and commitment to Los Angeles LGBQT youth during his KickStarter campaign gives me faith in the future. Thanks to NiK, they can start their new lives one step at a time, and never walk alone.
On my long awaited wedding day, nearly 10 years from the day that Megan and I met, and 7 years from when we unofficially committed ourselves to one another, I want to be first and foremost myself, open to the unexpected, unwavering in the face of commitment. This is an historic time. The Supreme Court has bravely ruled that what I once believed I needed to sacrifice to live an honest life is now within my rights as an American.
With such a genuine purpose, pathblazers like NiK are making it possible for this former square peg to realize that I was never really a square, and the hole wasn’t really round. I secretly hope that Elvis will wear a pair of blue suede shoes at our wedding. And me? I will be wearing my NiK Kacy blue monk strap boots. On a day in which will be rife with joy, love, and boundless heartsongs, I will also be walking more proudly with and thanks to my brother from another mother, NiK Kacy.
Mindy is a former comedian who performed with Ellen DeGeneres, Paula Poundstone, Ray Romano and many more. She works at IHG® where she is a founding member of IHG OUT, an employee resource group focusing on the rights, protection and support of the LGBQT community in the workplace. She currently lives in Decatur, Ga with her wife Megan.
And, yes, Mindy did get to wear her pair of NiK Kacy Footwear blue double monk strap boots as she walked her way down the aisle. And sitting in the pews in the chapel, she was honored by NiK Kacy’s attendance and finally got to thank in person the visionary who never gave up on a dream... a dream larger than his own.