Best One-of-a-Kind Sneakers
There’s an undeniable allure to a custom pair of shoes. So much of the culture surrounding the sneaker world operates on the idea of exclusivity. Coveted releases such as the Travis Scott Air Jordans and the Nike x Sacai Waffle Racer instill envy amongst diehard sneakerheads and folks simply looking to add something new to their wardrobe alike, not only because they’re well-designed but because they’re hard to find. Wearing a pair is as much a fashion statement as it is a seal of victory — you’re one of the lucky ones who managed to secure them and you want people to know it.
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Sneakers as a cultural hub and as a fashion piece are also inextricably tied to the world of basketball, with players like Michael Jordan playing in shoes that now transcend the sport and modern icons like LeBron James and Russell Westbrook effectively moonlighting as fashion influencers. There’s an entire micro-spectator sport in keeping track of the various custom sneakers (generally referred to as “Player Edition” sneakers) All-Stars and rookies alike break out on the court during the NBA season. Often those colorways and designs remain limited to the pair made for the player, but now and then they get a wide release for fans to wear themselves, often selling out and becoming scarce, highly-coveted pairs themselves.
Amidst hype, scarcity and the sneaker resale market recently becoming a billion-dollar industry, finding a pair of shoes that is (or at least feels) totally unique is harder than ever. Fortunately, a few sneaker brands have the perfect way to get you a shoe that (literally) nobody else has.
Custom sneakers are far from a new innovation. Brands including Nike and Vans have had sneaker customization sites in place for years, with new silhouettes and colors cycled in and out with regularity. These custom sneakers might not sell as well as black Converse Chuck Taylors or the latest Virgil Abloh Nike release but they remain a killer wardrobe upgrade anyone interested in footwear should try at least once. The appeal is undeniable — who wouldn’t want to have a one-of-a-kind shoe they designed themselves?
How Does It Work?
These days, when it comes to major sneaker brands, you can customize sneakers from all the heavy hitters, such as Nike, Converse, Vans and New Balance. The mechanics of doing so is roughly identical from brand to brand: the customer selects from a series of available shoes and is presented with an all-white “blank slate.” They then select colors, patterns and sometimes even fabrics for each piece of the shoe based on an array of predetermined swatches. Depending on the shoe, sometimes custom lettering and numbering is available.
While the process behind the creation of the shoe after the design varies from brand to brand, AskMen spoke with Sunni Flemmin of New Balance (Senior Product Manager, MADE) to gain some insight as to how NB1 (the sneaker customization feature on the site) customers’ designs are taken from the company’s website to a fully realized product.
“Once an order has been placed,” Flemmin told us, “Our Lawrence, MA factory receives the order with the product specifications down on the factory floor.” The shoe materials are pulled from there and the shoe is built.
Is There a Margin of Error?
If there’s a single concern that brands in the customization game have to stay ahead of it’s that the shoe a customer designs on their sites isn’t lost in translation when the real thing is built. Seeing a design on a screen is one thing, but there’s an inevitable margin of error when translating what fabric swatches are available to a digitally-composed image of a shoe.
In order to ensure that the end product New Balance sends to their customers resembles the design they received as closely as possible, Flemmin told us that, “Each and every color material selection the consumer makes is coded to a material that is stored on the factory floor. We ensure accuracy by passing this data down to the product spec sheet which is what the factory uses to make the shoe, we have QC monitors on the line to ensure that the finished shoe is exactly as per the consumer’s design on screen.”
Across the board, accuracy is generally on point from brand to brand. There are occasional discrepancies (the purple shades available on New Balance’s site is noticeably brighter in person than on a computer screen) but the shoe you receive from Converse, Vans, New Balance MADE, or wherever, is more or less going to be a perfect embodiment of the shoe you design on their websites. The only (understandable) downside to keep in mind is that they’ll take a while to arrive. Most companies require anywhere from four to eight weeks to fulfill a custom order.
Not Just for Sneakerheads
It warrants noting that customized shoes aren’t just for the sneaker fanatics among us. Sometimes what you want is just one pair of sneakers that works perfectly with your wardrobe, and that can be tricky to track down. A custom pair of shoes can save you a ton of time. Trying to find a simple white and red sneaker? You’re all set. Want something with loud color blocking and contrast to liven up a relatively simple outfit? Customize a pair to your specific needs.
They’re great as commemorative pieces as well. Whether it’s a birthday, a graduation or a major life accomplishment, a shoe designed to pay homage to that moment can serve not only as a great wardrobe piece but as a conversation starter and a trophy (the ability to add numbers and lettering is perfect for including dates or significant initials in a design).
If you’re unsure of where to start, a great place to get your ideas onto a screen is the Sneakers Generator app. The app comes loaded with a myriad of silhouettes and colors that are great for experimenting and figuring out what kind of sneakers and color schemes you’re going to want to create.
Keep in mind that many of the sneakers and colors featured on Sneakers Generator won’t be available on the actual design sites so think of this as more of a mood board than anything. Once you’ve had a chance to mess around and figure out what you’re looking for, head to any of the sites listed below to turn your ideas into a new wardrobe staple.
New Balance Custom Sneakers
Whether it’s your casual lifestyle show you wear everyday or the baseball shoe you want to be known for, New Balance offers customizable versions of six key styles including the classic 574.
Starting at $129.99 at NewBalance.com
Swear London Custom Shoes
It may be tricky to get custom sneakers from Swear if you’re not in the UK, but if you find your way on that side of the pond, the site allows you to choose from colors, patterns and fabrics and are made-to-order in five days.
Starting at $211.55 at Swear-London.com
Vans Custom Sneakers
Iconic Vans styles and even backpacks are available to make into the Vans you always used a pen to draw on them to be. Feel like too much? Use the “randomizer” tool to have Vans design your style based on your three favorite colors.
Starting at $75 at Vans.com
Nike Custom Sneakers
With arguably the most options available to customize, Nike lets you work with both its casual, lifestyle sneakers as well as the sport styles — including football, basketball and soccer — to ensure your style stays with you everywhere you go and during everything you do.
Starting at $95 at Nike.com
Converse Custom Sneakers
From tongue to sole, not part of the shoe is off limits when it comes to Converse. But that’s not really any surprise since the OG basketball shoe can be seen in famous culture rolls from the actors portraying Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Eazy-E in “Straight Outta Compton” to the Harry Potter in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” to Danny Zuko in “Grease” to Marty McFly on his first trip “Back to the Future.” Needless to say, these shoes helped define many characters in the past, and now you can create your own character defining style.
Starting at $75 at Converse.com
They are, all things considered, among the most unique pieces you could add to your wardrobe. A custom sneaker is one of a kind, a completely personal fashion statement. They can blend in or stand out as much as you’d like. For sneaker collectors, they’re the ultimate sartorial flex, a shoe that nobody else in the world has. For those simply looking to upgrade their seasonal outfit rotation, customizable sneakers are the key to adding the perfect finishing touch to an outfit without having to browse sneaker sites for an hour looking for the shoe that meets your needs.
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Source : Tres Dean Link