History has taught us that DJs and sneakers fit together like the bass and a kick in a good techno track. But my sneaker story is a bit special, and it goes way beyond simply stacking hundreds of pairs of shoes in my closets. It started with buying a couple pairs of special editions, and then it quickly turned into an art form; and for the last couple of months, I’ve been totally into pimping my sneakers.
The groundwork for my newly developed passion was probably laid in my teens, when I was practicing basketball. I grew up in the former Yugoslavia, and because I was not from a wealthy family, I could not buy fancy American sport shoes. One of my teammates spent summers in American basketball camps and always came back with some new Jordans. Back then, we all longed for a pair of those sneakers! I still remember when I bought my first pair years later—when I could afford them—and I still like wearing them today.
I’ve always appreciated good sport gear, but at some point that appreciation turned into a full-scale addiction, which only grew stronger once I discovered special editions and collector’s items. Soon I found websites dedicated to footgear and started following the scene. Before I knew it, I found myself with a nice assortment of Jordans, LeBrons and Shaqs. I mostly collect Nikes, but I’m also very fond of Adidas’ Star Wars and Micro Pacer lines.
When collecting rare editions, the sky is the limit. The only thing more exclusive is a customized sneaker. Some time ago, I started gathering information on how people pimp their gear and decided to try it myself. I started to study the craft. I bought design kits, brushes, special colors, and airbrushes, and I started painting footwear. I combined the colors the way I liked and made my own sets of uniquely designed Jordans—the only ones of their kind in the world. Sure, I’m an amateur compared to the guys who have been doing it professionally, and there are some amazing artists out there, but sneakers can’t be much more exclusive than those you design and paint on your own.
My goal is to create something that not only looks interesting, but that I can wear in as many combinations as possible. But the most satisfying thing about this hobby is that it allows me to do something with my own hands, based on my own ideas. I dedicate time and effort into creating something I didn’t even know I was capable of creating. My life revolves around music, and I never imagined I could do something interesting in the visual arts. Now that I am uncovering this new talent, I can enjoy the whole process of learning new methods and acquiring new skills.
I never considered patience and precision my strong points, but this activity demands time. You need at least 10–15 working hours to get the proper result. First, you have to remove the basic color and polish, and you have to do this without damaging the leather. Then you take paints, brushes, and an airbrush, and you start to color the surface. In between, you have to clean tools, wait for the color to dry, and work on protecting the surfaces that don’t get color. I try different tricks to make special patterns. If I knew how to draw, I’d try that; but for now, I’m doing mostly graphic stuff.
Sometimes people ask me why I do this on top of my never-ending schedule, but the whole point of this hobby is that it’s something I enjoy. I don’t expect anything from this except my personal satisfaction and a nice pair of sneaks to wear. I don’t want to grow a business out of it. I don’t understand painting, but when I take the brush in my hand and play good music for the mood, something happens. This is my wellness, my relaxation. My yoga, if you will.
The whole thing reminds me of when I started uncovering the world of music production—but with one major difference: Then, it was really hard to get any useful tips or information about the gear and the processes. Now, with the internet, everything is just a couple of clicks away. Obviously, good designers try to keep their professional secrets—how they mix paints, what additives they use for better results, how they process the whole thing—but you can still find lots of useful guidelines on the web. I even went to a shoemaker to ask him about some tips. If I had his skills, I’d probably even dismantle shoes and sew them up in the way I wanted; I’d play with the materials, I’d do some patchwork … but I don’t know anyone in the Balkans doing that right now. I only know what I learned on the internet.
So far, I’ve customized roughly 20 pairs, and I’m trying to create more and more complex designs. Half of these projects I did for myself, the other half I gave as presents to friends. I’d actually like to take this opportunity to thank them for being my test bunnies! Most of them wear my little creations, and that can only mean one thing: that they like them. Or maybe they’re just really good friends.