Ever since the dawn of sneaker culture, creative sneakerheads have been finding ways to add their own personal touches to their kicks. Be it with a lace swap, taking a marker to the shoe to scribble a message, or dousing their kicks in bleach for an intentionally faded look, sneakerheads are a creative bunch who like to make unique statements.
And as time went on, one way to make a very prominent statement was with a pair of customized kicks. We're not talking little things here. We're talking a fully customized pair of shoes, painted another color or with a totally different design than their original release. Some are extremely creative, most take a good deal of artistic skill (and a steady hand), and a few are extremely unique.
However, there's a question that's begging to be asked when it comes to custom kicks: where's the line between customs and fakes? In today's sneaker world fakes are a dime a dozen and come in all colors, shapes, and sizes.
Don't get us wrong: we're not saying that any shoe that's been customized past a certain point is automatically a "fake". We're saying that there's a certain level of creativity that needs to be involved with a shoe for it to be a custom, and not just a knockoff of a pre-existing pair (which would make it a fake).
Look at a re-constructed custom, done by a masterful artisan like JBF Customs (that's his work on the Shadow I above) or Kuh-Vit. Deconstructing a shoe and reconstructing it with premium materials is an art, similar to what Dapper Dan was doing with custom clothes back in the 1980's. It takes a lot of skill and a keen eye/attention to detail to re-construct a sneaker with premium materials, and definitely falls into the "custom" category.
There's also nothing wrong with putting an artistic spin on your shoes with a paintbrush. A lot of the more detailed customs are art in themselves. Just look at the incredible painting on this "Noah's Ark" custom by Mache. It's no different than a piece hanging in a gallery ... it's just that the one there is on a canvas and this one is on a leather sneaker. A shoe like this is almost too beautiful to wear.
But when you cross into fake territory (at least as far as we see it) is when you're slapping pre-existing colorways onto other kicks (no matter how good the brushwork might be), merging two kicks together (like the pair pictured at the top of this article) adorning a sneaker with a bunch of logos from other brands or pushing out lazy, uninspired, sloppy work. The whole point of a custom is to express yourself and show your creativity, not just copy something that's already out. For some, customizing is a full-time profession, and if your customer wants you to make a shoe that's a copy of something else out you might need to do it, but there's a difference between being inspired by a design and stealing a design, and some undercooked customs like the one above definitely fall into the latter category instead of the former..
So next time you're thinking of custom kicks, no matter if you're making them or purchasing them ... try to look at them through a more objective lens. Separate the actual art from the fakes (yeah, we're calling them fakes), and be sure to demand quality and an original design if you're in the market for a pair. You want to express yourself, not swagger-jack something else. That's the whole point of customization in the first place, isn't it?
What do you think of custom sneakers? Do you think they're a cool way to add a personal touch to a shoe, or are you of the opinion that some are just glorified fakes? Hit us up and let us know on Twitter, check our Facebook page for updates, and, as always, be sure to follow us on Instagram for all the fire pictures you can handle.