The compulsion to be unique has led to customized sneakers. Some addicts have more then a thousand pairs. The sneaker designs consist of everything from dead artist- Biggie Smalls and Tupac to the Mcdonalds Golden arches.Once largely an underground fashion phenomenon, sneaker customization has been growing among passionate collectors as well as the merely fashion- conscious. Industry giants such as Nike and Puma are getting into the act with small artist. Sneakers by Philadelphians Omar Brown and Eric Ware, former graffiti “artists” who operate Sane Infinity Art Works in the Gallery at Market East, regularly stop mall traffic. Their designs often incorporate omnipresent logos such as rapper Young Jezzy’s snowman logo.
The footwear does not come cheap, Brown and Ware charge $150 for a basic paint job. For $250 and a weeks wait they will take apart your $70 nike Air Force Ones and restitch it with monologue fabrics and add shiny details with durable leather paint. People have been customizing their sneakers for years. Initially, it included painting shoes to match outfits and adding colored laces and other personal touches. Now, computers offer new ways of airbrushing and other innovations have changed customization to a whole new level. Even sneaker giants are allowing customers to do it themselves from home.
In 1999, Nike opened up the customization process to sneaker fashionists who wanted to design their own footwear. With a simple click on the Nike web site, customers can choose soles, colors, patterns and other aspects of sneaker design to create personalized shoes. Companies such as Vans and Converse are offering self design Web options. And in June, Puma launched “Mongolian BBQ,” an event that travels for six weeks at a time and allows customers to choose from among several design options, such as stripes in camel and tweed.
True sneakers fanatics look to neighborhood artists for custom kicks they are not likely to find at Nike or Converse.
There have also been traveling shows such as the Sneaker Pimp World Tour, sponsored by Adidas, Reebok and other manufacturers, have brought expansive sneaker collections to cities in Asia, North America and New Zealand.
“What you wear on your feet represents who you are. That is why I customize my sneakers , says Leroy Hardy,16, who has been getting customized sneakers since he was 12 years old.
“Customizing sneakers all comes down to individuality. It allows you to express yourself and to give you your own personal image,” says Hardy.