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The Real Reason Jax's Shoes Change At The End Of Sons Of Anarchy

The FX drama "Sons of Anarchy" aired its series finale almost a decade ago, yet fans today can't help but continue to dissect the show's complicated world and its arresting characters, led by Charlie Hunnam's charismatic Jax Teller. One debate has continued to swirl around a peculiarly specific aspect of Jax's character: his white tennis shoes. Viewers have often questioned why a tough character like Jax wears such bright sneakers throughout an often dark and dirty existence.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Hunnam clarified that his attire as Jax — including his white shoes — was directly inspired by a young, "fearless" member of a real-life motorcycle club. The actor stated of the now-deceased club member's influence that "literally, Jax wears the jeans and the shoes he wore." The shoes quickly became an iconic, if occasionally questioned or derided, part of Jax's persona ... though he curiously discards them just before the series finale. While a seemingly small aspect of a huge story, this change in attire reveals more about the character than fans may initially realize.

Why did Jax change his shoes?

While this is not the first time Jax's outfit change has prompted discussion of a deeper meaning, the literal reason for his change of footwear is that they become stained by blood in the 12th episode of Season 7, "Red Rose." Much of this final season is shaped by the death of Jax's wife, Dr. Tara Knowles-Teller. Believing her murder to be the work of a crime syndicate, the Chinese Triad, Jax leads the Sons in a brutal war against them. However, it is eventually revealed to Jax that the Chinese Triad had no hand in Tara's murder; in reality, she was personally and viciously executed by Jax's own mother, Gemma Teller Morrow, who was suspicious that Tara had turned on her husband and the club as a whole and become a confidential informant for law enforcement.

When Jax confronts his mother, she actually urges him to exact his punishment against her, gently insisting, "You have to do this. It's who we are." When Jax tearfully pulls the trigger, his shoes are stained by his mother's blood. Obviously, he can't continue to wear them around, but rather than attempting to clean and preserve them, he merely swaps them for black boots in the final episode of the series.

What does this change symbolize?

As with many great anti-hero dramas, the protagonists of "Sons of Anarchy" commonly wrestle with the morality of their own actions — the necessary evils they commit to survive. None struggle with this more than Jax, who often thinks of himself as a more conscious member of the club. This youthful self-righteousness is, in part, embodied by his blindingly white sneakers, ever bright, pure, and seemingly immune to the dust and blood his world is literally and metaphorically engulfed in.

When he's forced to murder his own mother, however, neither the man himself nor his sneakers can remain absolved of his bloody actions. Though the series' final quote references the iconic Elizabethan tragedy "Hamlet," this scene arguably evokes another key Shakespearean play. In "Macbeth," Lady Macbeth spends a great deal of time attempting to wash the blood of her victim, King Duncan, from her hands, simultaneously attempting to wash away her guilt as well (via Penguin).

Based on his nod to Hamlet in the finale, it's possible that showrunner Kurt Sutter had Shakespearean style on his mind, and that the blood on Lady Macbeth's hands shares the same purpose — a visual representation of irreconcilable guilt — as the blood on Jax's once pure footwear. Regardless, this moment is undeniably the one in which Jax is forced to reckon with his life of violence, and the discarding of his sullied sneakers is an all but outright admission of culpability. As he dons the dark boots and mounts his father's bike, he accepts his horrible deeds and rides on as the man he always feared he'd become.