A little intro to Custom sneakers

Posted on 16th March, by Matt in Blog Posts. No Comments

A little intro to Custom sneakers

Due to my background in footwear design and heritage in English footwear, I am intrigued by the custom footwear market. I am not just talking about doodling on an upper to make it look a little bit whackier than its other kin – not that there is anything wrong with that and I fully recognise that is a skill of its own… when done properly…  I am going to look at deconstructed custom sneakers.

First, let me explain a little bit about both, custom deconstructed sneaker and the drawn on shoe that I mentioned just now. A drawn on sneaker is exactly that, drawn on… what ever the application, for example paintbrush with waterproof paints, permanent pens that don’t smudge, coloured in stitch rows and sketched on outsoles and so on, more often than not the shoe is not taken apart. The desired finish is different to that of a deconstructed sneaker. So for example, an amazing pair of drawn on custom shoes are these Vans inspired and designed for Josh Farro, guitarist of the band Paramore. Typically drawn on customs come in 2 forms (although of course there is a whole mountain of options and combinations), 1. There is a brilliant movement in the AF1 customs community who solely paint and decorate uppers, with great skill and patience, google it, you will find plenty of examples. 2. On textile based 1-3 piece uppers. This is so that the design is not distorted over to many pieces and it is much easier to apply decoration to textile (in as large a piece as possible) than leather.

Don’t be misslead, this is still a customised shoe. As customised by definition (”to make or alter to individual or personal specifications”) is a very vague description, it incorporates a whole range of elements.

The customised sneakers I have the utmost respect and adoration for, are of the deconstructed kind. A deconstructed sneaker means to fully take apart a pair of trainers, literally reversing the whole design and manufacture process so you are left with an outsole and a whole load of pieces (and no doubt a not very happy other half). From this you have your pattern pieces of the upper and if catalogued and studied correctly you have the blueprint for making that upper again and again. Re-made in your desired materials and with the treatments, redesigned/tweaked panels as you would like them to be, mixing and matching materials. In my experience the most limiting factor is the outsole, generally speaking you must re-use this part of it, as well as branding and other aspects you can not readily reproduce in your bed room but wish to utilise for the design.

One of the best people of this trade in my opinion are Nash Money (Alex Nash). This style from the DC x Nash Money collaboration for their Life Collection quite frankly is a gem. A piece of engineering beauty and aesthetically pleasing from every angle.  The trademark cross stitch around the toe, ski hooks and bright paisley lining… Top job! This is not a new release, it was out 2009 I believe, but why put the new releases here? This is just a little taster of what my favourite custom sneakers have in store for you. Be sure to visit Nash’s site, if you haven’t heard about him or seen his work and you are a trainer enthusiast such as myself, these will no doubt blow you away.

One final example of custom sneakers is a hybrid of the 2 above techniques – drawn on deconstructed sneakers! Again this is a group you will see me blogging about later, Diversitile. I don’t want to go to in depth on these as I have a blog I am currently writing, but below is a prime example of a mash up of custom sneaker styles. The cut out for a LED in the tongue, silver panels drawn on and fantastic mix of materials. They have of course carved there trade out in fashion in their own way and I see them as pioneers. The way there inspiration influences the design is clear to see but not just slap dash, it’s clever. They aren’t going for mersh (commercial), they are doing what they like to do and making it look good. Who can’t admire that? My background and family are heavily rooted in English heritage footwear, I see this as another aspect of that, not in style but in skill and craftsmanship, something I have a strong affiliation with. Have a look around, you will find a whole new world of beautiful shoes.

Here’s a more recent, extreme version of the Deconstructed sneaker. Called Adidas Synth from the Adidas x Lifelounge collaboration, part of the “Deconstructed Sneakers” Project. Created by Herr Fritz Träumer these are a great example of the potential in this area, this is of course slightly out of this world, but still…got to love the design and creativity.

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