Sole of North Florida: R. Land’s Jiffy Feet
One of the original Jiffy feet on a Riverside telephone pole in 2008. Courtesy of R. Land.
In 2008, Jiffy feet invaded Jacksonville in a new and especially memorable way. Starting in Riverside and quickly spreading elsewhere, painted wooden cutouts in the shape of black-soled feet began appearing on telephone poles and public rights of way, each emblazoned with the word “Jiffy.”
The mastermind of the Jiffy foot invasion was R. Land, a Jacksonville-born artist based in Atlanta since 1994. The creator of Speckles the “Loss Cat” and Atlanta’s popular “Pray for ATL” image, Land grew up on Jacksonville’s Northside in the 1980s, and his hometown and upbringing have greatly influenced his art. “Being from Jax and the Northside in particular informs my sensibilities in a big way,” said Land. “The parts I grew up around were teeming with wildlife, waterways and local characters. My formative years on the tip-top of the Northside have much to do with how I see the world and flavor much of what I cook up artistically.”
Lucky Jiffy. Courtesy of R. Land. A Jaguars-themed variation of R. Land’s well known “Loss Cat” image. The description below reflects the Jiffy store purchase of the man who introduced Land to Jiffy feet. Courtesy of R. Land.
Like many Jaxsons I spoke to, Land remembers where he first heard the term Jiffy feet. In the late 1980s, he had a job delivering Auto Trader magazines to stores across Jacksonville. One day in a Westside Jiffy store – maybe in Westconnett, or maybe off Commonwealth Avenue, Land thinks – a man walked in whose appearance became firmly impressed into the young artist’s memory. He was wearing tight jeans cutoffs and white tube socks, the bottoms caked black, and nothing else. Despite his lack of shoes and shirt he had no trouble getting service when he stepped up to the counter and bought some Marlboro Lights, quick pick lottery tickets, and Budweiser.
Land found the encounter and the dirty socks so amusing that he mentioned them later to his little brother Joel, who was about 10 at the time. “You mean Jiffy feet?” said Joel. “I was like wow, that’s what it’s called,” said Land. “It was like 30 some odd years ago, and I’ll never forget. It never stopped being funny.”
A booth at Riverside Arts Market where Land sold “Fresh Jiffys” in 2009.
Land drew on that memory in 2008 when he decided to create a new, distinctively Jacksonville street art project in his home city. “I thought that, much in the same way a state might select a bird or song, we needed a down and dirty Duval identifier that would beacon from the streets.” In tribute, he hand painted about 15 of his initial “Jiffy feet,” all done in his characteristic vivid, cartoony style. He shipped the first batch to his brother Joel, who had inducted him into the world of Jiffy lore all those years before, and Joel put them up in strategic locations.
Land’s Jiffy feet were a hit. While some were taken down in the first few days, others remained for weeks. People starting contacting Land, asking if he had created the feet, and if so, where they could buy one of their own. To meet demand, Land designed hundreds of new Jiffy feet variations. Many were human, while others belonged to animals or fictitious creatures, and still others bore cartoon faces above the ankle. One of the most popular is the mustachioed King Jiffy, who rules over all Jiffy feet with justice and benevolence. Land sold the pieces at Fans and Stoves in Five Points and at the Riverside Arts Market. Due to the continuing demand, he still periodically makes feet today for sale on his website.
“Jacksonville Jiffys”, R. Land’s submission for a Florida Times-Union call for new team name ideas. Courtesy of R. Land.
Land’s pieces brought much wider attention to the phrase Jiffy feet, especially after Folio Weekly and the Jacksonville blogosphere covered them in 2009. Still today, many of the people I asked about Jiffy feet invoked Land’s series, with some indicating that that’s where they first learned the phrase. For his part, Land sees his feet as celebrating something distinctive about life on the First Coast. “It’s so cool how it resonates. It’s like a connection with the city’s soul, and sole, in both senses.”
Land’s pieces and the celebration of Jiffy feet in general have been part of a broader trend of locals and artists picking out and embracing unique aspects of life in Jacksonville, including the low-brow, quotidian things that typically would be dismissed. Decades after the last Jiffy store in the First Coast closed its heavy glass doors for good, the Jiffy feet colloquialism appears to be as well known as ever among locals of various ages and backgrounds. For better or worse, Jiffy feet have become ingrained in local culture like so much blacktop on Jaxsons’ collective soles.
Jiffy snowman. Courtesy of R. Land.
A Jiffy foot roller skate. Courtesy of R. Land.