“Sex Shouldn’t be Comfy!”

A review of Kinky Boots

A classic makeover story, 2005′s Kinky Boots laces together two stories that become irrevocably intertwined somewhere between a drag queen’s broken heel and a young englishman’s broken dreams.

Charlie Price’s family shoe making business is failing; the market for well-made oxfords is dwindling with the rise of fast fashion, and Price is forced to start laying off employees and contemplating closure. Desperate for some sort of sign, Charlie mistakenly wanders into the life of Lola, a drag queen he assumes to be a woman and tries to save from assault. Later in her dressing room at a nearby drag bar, Lola complaints to Charlie about the reoccurring problem she encounters during her acts: her sexy shoes are poorly made, the heels collapsing or cracking under the pressure of a male-bodied person. Although he’s confused, Charlie takes a step into the unknown and sets his mind to building Lola a pair of new boots.

Charlie’s first pair of fetish boots are, to be concise, a complete failure. Cut from burgundy suede with a chunky, short black heel, he presents them to Lola with pride. She of course is mortified, openly resenting the idea that she inspired something “the colour of hot water bottles”.

“Red! Red is the colour of sex!” Lola cries,”Red is the colour of fear and danger and signs that say Do Not Enter.”

“But they’re comfy!” Charlie argues.

“But sex shouldn’t be comfy!” Lola returns.

Based on a true story that inspired a BBC special and a musical, Kinky Boots is all about the traditions and trends surrounding shoes and their makers, and the meaning they take on for consumers and their various identities.

For Charlie, shoes have always meant hand-sewn leather men’s brogues, a tradition passed through his family. For Lola, the very same shoes are a nightmare: even as a child, Lola is shown trading her basic brown school boy’s shoes for bright red bow-accented pumps. For these two people, shoes mean completely different things. Charlie sees them as something ordinary, comfy and practical, and Lola sees them as a tool that can contain or free her depending on their shade and cut. Charlie’s company (Divine Footwear in real life) ends up building the perfect sex-filled stiletto boot in cherry red, but revolutionizes the industry by putting a steel rod in the heel that can support a man’s weight. This innovation gives drag queens like Lola the confidence to sing and dance in their sexiest shoes on sturdy footing.

// Research by Sofie Mikhaylova

Lowbrow

What happens when bleached brows detach from the runway

I like my hair white. Freshly fallen snow white. Nearly translucent white. Sometimes the colour may shift to pastel mint, lavender, or pink, but for the most part I stick to shades of the printer paper variety. Some might say I’m a bit too obsessive about banishing any hint of a yellowy tone, and I’d probably say they are right.

This past week, I stumbled upon a look that would take my ghostly appearance to a new level: bleached brows. How did this revelation take so long? I have been fawning over barely-there browed models for ages, but I never quite made the connection: I could carry out this look in real life.

I clawed at the idea with the ferocity of a cat in a litter box. How do I do it? What volume activator do I use? How long before I get roots? The questions were endless, but the answer, it turns out, was pretty simple. I got drunk with my best friend and painted my brows with Jolen cream bleach. I started watching YouTube videos, completely forgot the bleach, remembered and frantically tried to rub it off as quickly as possible, and voila! No eyebrows!

But really, for that first hungover 24 hours I really looked like my brows has been pillaged, ripped right from their perch on my face and taken to an unknown location. It wasn’t until I bleached my roots and toned both bodies of hair to match that I attained the model-like result I’d been after. Bingo. I started to think of myself as a little more alien, more doll, more forest nymph/fairy/magical creature. But to my surprise, others didn’t share the same excitement.

When sifting through the internet for tips on managing the very quick grow-out phase (I already had teeny roots two days later), all I could find were warnings of potential blindness, the condemning of Kelly Osborne, polls debating whether the look should be “runway only” and some very direct reports banning it altogether.

My real life reactions were even more daunting than those of the voices on the internet. Friends literally looked and me and said, “Wow, your eyebrows look weird,” or (nervously), “When will they grow back?” From shock to horror, almost every reaction was negative.

The general consensus seemed to be “But why would you do that?” Perhaps the most confused and upset of them all was none other than one of Toronto’s top brow gurus. Known for her fabulous face-framing skills, she had just finished up with my best friend’s luscious brown brows when we got to talking about her doing mine sometime (when the lack of colour grew out and I needed more shape). The moment of realization that my eyebrows were not naturally light flashed across her face like tinfoil in a microwave, and she suddenly seemed unable to contain her dismay. She just couldn’t believe I had done such a thing willingly when “brows frame the face!” She asked, “but why?” at least five times while I struggled to comfort her and convince her it was a very solid runway trend, then eventually gave in to reassuring her they would grow back very quickly and it was just for fun. Although still confused, she greeted this possibility with hope and appeared to let it go.

Had I committed some form of facial faux pas? Was there a special place in hell reserved for women who purposefully erase their brows? Although I’ve tried many a crazy passing trend (full length denim jumpsuit, high-waisted pants that go up to my breasts, see-through dresses with nothing underneath, etc.) I have never experienced such negative feedback to a fashion statement: apparently challenging traditional beauty standards is not a risk I’m supposed to take.

It’s a well known fact that brows lighter than your locks just look “weird,” but why is that? Because we all need some level of sameness to feel comfortable when we gaze into one another’s eyes? As the tiny roots creep into sight on my brow, I’ve hit a crossroads: do I bleach them back? Or do I conform to traditional beauty standards and return to life as I knew it, with a perfectly balanced and shaped face? Is flattering more important than fun? The answer of course, is no. Despite the various people I’ve promised the return of my brows to, I think I’m going to indulge in this runway-only look a little longer.

photography //
Brianne Burnell

Hot Fuzz: Behind the Scenes

Alyssa Wornette gets mascara dabbed on her armpit hair by a complete stranger

Arriving at the Belljar Cafe in Toronto’s west end on a warm summer evening, I felt wretchedly nervous. Don’t get me wrong, I was proud of my armpit hair: so proud in fact I was worried the photos wouldn’t do them justice. I wanted to look sexy, sophisticated, and not at all ashamed like I would’ve been in the past. I was terrified my confidence just wouldn’t come through.

But as my body slid into ’50s party dresses in pastel shades, and my perfectly curled hair was coated with hairspray, the nerves turned to excitement. Somewhere between fresh brewed coffee, dabbing mascara on my armpit hair, and cuddling an ADORABLE puppy, we snapped the perfect photos to accompany Hot Fuzz, issue 15‘s article on learning to love my pit hair. I’ve never felt so pretty and proud.

text // Alyssa Garrison
video // Daniel Reis
end animation // Barry Potter

What Do You Become When You Can’t Be Yourself?

A look at the role of clothing in the struggle to shape one's identity in the film Pariah


Something stuck with me after I finished watching Pariah for the first time, but I couldn’t quite put it into words. The film is strong, emotional, and surprisingly realistic compared to other lesbian films I’ve seen over the years. It took a second watch for me to realize what was really moving me throughout the pain-laden plot: the clothes. I have never seen a life so ruled by clothing as the main character Alike’s. For her, clothing can mean fear, strength, punishment, or acceptance. It’s all about the timing.

Pariah opens in an all-ladies club, and Alike (or Lee as most of her friends call her) sits in awe of the women dancing on poles in front of her. She’s accompanied by her best friend Laura, who appears to be much more experienced in the scene. The two complement one another perfectly: Laura with a diamond stud in one ear, an Afro, and a red plaid shirt, and Alike in an oversized striped polo, do-rag, and cap.

But when the pair separates on the bus ride home, Alike starts to strip. The hat comes off and a bun of corn rows is revealed. Under her polo she wears a tight pink t-shirt with sparkle embellishments that spell out “Angel,” and small hoop earrings are added to complete the look. Her old clothing, along with her lesbian identity, is tucked out of sight into a small army-print bag.

At home, it becomes obvious why Alike needs to hide. With an extremely religious mother and absent father, she is constantly pressured to look like a normal, pretty, teenage girl. Her mother, ruled by the fear that Alike is in fact a lesbian, constantly urges her to go shopping, and makes a point of commenting on clothes that “really complement her figure.” Like her hidden bag of boys’ clothing, Alike stuffs the truth beneath layers of fear and uncertainty, and continues lying to her parents. Meanwhile her mother continues buying tight pink clothing in too-small sizes and complaining to her friends that, “For some reason Lee just doesn’t like anything I pick out for her anymore.”

Upon arriving at school the next day, she rushes to the washroom to change again, this time swapping her feminine attire for a tight white undershirt, a large graphic t-shirt, and a cap. Although she’s in clothing that mirrors her friends, she still seems uncomfortable and detached, miserably drifting through the day alone. When school is out, she switches back and heads home where she’s pressured about what boy she’ll take to the homecoming dance. The switches continue back and forth, over and over. Just watching it is exhausting.

From “strapping” with a dildo in her pants to look “harder” to impress a straight girl, to softening and finding a middle ground between who her friends think she is and who her mother says she is supposed to be to try and find happiness, Pariah covers every step of Alike’s transformation and every layer of clothing she pulls onto her body and off again. When she finally realizes there’s nothing wrong with the person she’s been hiding, she breaks and the truth she has been piling under bedazzled t-shirts, cardigans with pulling buttons, and skirts is revealed. She finally gives herself permission to stop changing, and settles somewhere between the two extremes she’s been trying to dress for. With her hair uncovered and tied in a loose knot, earrings in, and fitted sweatshirts where massive polos were once donned with shame, she is no longer Alike or Lee: She is simply herself.

Pariah puts the importance of dress into perspective for us. Not only is dressing important to how we feel about ourselves, or how others perceive us, but it has the power to change our lives, for better or for worse. In Alike’s case, one poorly timed outfit swap could crumble her entire life, her family’s love, and her friendships. It made me realize although clothing has always meant freedom for me, it can be the opposite too. Some people are trapped in their clothing, and there’s no simple zipper or button solution to release them.