The Happy Foot/Sad Foot Sign – Los Angeles, California - Atlas Obscura
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Los Angeles, California

The Happy Foot/Sad Foot Sign

A cult following celebrates the legend that belies this curious podiatrists' office sign which has worked its way into song, literature, animation, and the visual arts. 

The young son of a former head-of-clinic at the podiatry office drew the cartoon feet that were to grace the sign – a happy (healthy) foot on one side and a sad (unhealthy) foot on the other. Little did he know the cult following his happy foot / sad foot or HaFo SaFo illustrations would come to gain.

The sign slowly rotates on its axis, showing happy foot, then sad foot, like eternally spinning Greek drama masks… except that it’s a foot. The superstition according to locals is that it is good luck to see the happy foot side and ill fortune to see the sad one. Some people see it as a fortune-telling instrument, much like tarot cards. Others use it as a roll-of-the-dice measure as to how productive or unproductive their day will be – if they behold the happy foot, for example, they see it as an obligation that they follow through with their responsibilities for the day. If they see the sad foot, they make the conscious decision to embrace their inner procrastinator. 

In 2007, the sign became a part of literature when it was featured in author Jonathan Lethem’s novel You Don’t Love Me Yet. The sign also appears in the 2011 novel The Pale King by the late David Foster Wallace. The foot-wheel-of-fortune, as it were, is also immortalized in the annals of music, compliments of the Eels, in their B-side “Sad Foot Sign.” The sign is not unknown to musician Beck, as he is on the record in a 2004 Anthem Magazine interview speaking about his relationship with the sign as it was when he and friends lived in viewing distance of it. It is unclear whether or not in Beck’s residency the neighborhood had yet been nicknamed HaFo SaFo, but either way, it is currently a nickname recognized by the sign’s underground following.

Furthering the list of HaFo SaFo tributes, there exists a four-minute-long animation entitled “Happy Foot vs. Sad Foot” which imagines the unlucky sad foot cultivating jealousy over the happy foot’s good luck and as a result, attempting vengeful acts against his rival. Fans have created costumes, tattoo designs, and jewelry charms inspired by the alleged oracle. There is no telling what the future holds for the sign. 

Contributed by
Elise Elise
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