Uncomfortable with today’s clothing choices? Un/tied Shoes invites us to step into a future with more options, fewer labels, and shoes that come in all sizes, for all people.
Growing up, Evie Ruddy didn’t quite feel like a girl, or a boy, and resisted gendered expectations. Only recently, with the growing awareness of non-binary identities, did Evie move toward a more androgynous gender performance and begin using they/them pronouns. Un/tied Shoes tells the story of how gender conventions have impacted Evie’s life, with footwear as markers along the way.
Un/tied is presented as an online shoe company, but visitors expecting to browse the latest styles will instead find a first-person account of self-actualization and contesting categorization. Thanks to gendered fashion industry conventions, buying shoes and clothes that reflect their identity has been a lifelong challenge for Evie. Framing their story as an online shopping experience underscores the hardship many non-binary and transgender people face trying to reflect their gender identity in their outward appearance. It’s an everyday illustration of the deep-rooted mores and social codes that determine who can wear what, and in which circumstances.
With Evie as our guide, Un/tied invites us to step into a future with more options, fewer labels, and shoes that come in all sizes, for all people.
Behind Un/tied Shoes
Evie Ruddy Statement
Written by Evie Ruddy and designed by Tracey Lebedovich, Un/tied Shoes takes viewers on a mock lifestyle-driven online shopping experience. The kind in which the customer journey ends in those-ultimate-pair-of-shoes-that-will-finally-make-my-life-complete. Shoes, of course, being a metaphor for the much meatier matter of how mainstream fashion empowers – or denies – our ability to comfortably express our true identity. Then again, it’s also very much about shoes.
This story began with the idea of me laying out my shoes from over the years to illustrate the progression of my gender identity. We all say something about ourselves through our fashion choices and outward expression, but this is particularly true for genderqueer people like me. And while my options in this regard have improved since I was a child, I’ve always had difficulty finding shoes and clothes that “fit.”
Though society has grown more accepting of trans and non-binary people, the issues we face are still neglected or misunderstood. Everyone, however, can relate to wanting a pair of shoes or a piece of clothing, and how that informs identity.
I hope my story provides a relatable, personal demonstration of the negative effects that result from a fashion industry based on forced choices. I hope clothing-store owners see this story and question how and why they market certain clothes to women and others to men. I hope servers and restaurant owners see it and think twice about assuming the gender of their customers. And I hope that people who identify as trans and non-binary see their experiences reflected.
Writer and protagonist
Photo : Lauren Zbarsky
Evie covets men’s shoes. But at five feet tall, Evie faces shoe and clothing choices that are limited by the mainstream fashion industry’s assumptions around gendered categories and sizing. Evie is genderqueer, uses they/them/their pronouns, and has long struggled to match their outward appearance to their trans-masculine gender identity. They live in Regina, Saskatchewan, where they work as a communications officer, freelance writer and audio walking-tour producer. Their short documentaries and essays have been broadcast nationally on CBC Radio, and their print work has appeared in the National Post, the Toronto Star, and numerous other publications.
Art Director and Designer
Photo : Lauren Zbarsky
Tracey is an art director, designer and shoe-lover based in Vancouver, BC, who uses she/her/hers pronouns. With over 18 years of experience, Tracey has worked on award-winning projects for a wide range of both corporate and cultural clients spanning every medium, from interactive to photography to documentary film. Tracey’s lifelong passion for storytelling has helped to reveal the often-hidden but extraordinary value of individuals within our own communities.
Nicholas Klassen is an Interactive Producer with the National Film Board of Canada’s Digital Studio. Drawing from over a decade of experience creating and producing online content for the social and cultural sector, he works with filmmakers, writers and artists to produce interactive storytelling projects that push the boundaries of story, form and platform.
Prior to his work at the NFB, he co-founded the creative and online strategy agency Biro Creative, where he advised leading movement-building organizations like Greenpeace, WWF, and Avaaz.org on a number of Webby Award-winning and -nominated projects. He has also served as Senior Editor at Adbusters, overseeing editorial content for the acclaimed and globally recognized magazine.
Produced by the National Film Board of Canada
Story Written by
We The Collective
Hair & Makeup Artist
Gabrielle Lisa Collard
Studio Operations Manager
Bruno Capozzi Goldstein
Katja De Bock
Digital Products Project Manager
About the NFB
The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is one of the world’s leading digital content hubs, creating groundbreaking interactive documentaries and animation, mobile content, installations and participatory experiences. NFB interactive productions and digital platforms have won over 100 awards, including 21 Webbys. To access this unique content, visit NFB.ca.