Fix Your Kicks

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Photo by: Grace Shutti

After realising her dream to buy ‘a crazy stupid amount of trainers in every brand, colour and texture ever’ was asking too much, Grace customised her own.

If this trainer-obsessed life is one I want to continue living, I’ve realised that buying new ones every payday isn’t sustainable.

Trainers are one of the loves of my life. I’m not sure when it happened but it’s a romance that won’t die quickly. As more people buy into fashion and sports culture, they’re becoming more popular and more acceptable in professional settings. My dad told me one day I’ll have to grow up and start wearing more ‘suitable shoes’, but little does he know I will never go where trainers aren’t accepted. My issue is that because of different factors – popularity/special editions/celebrity endorsements – trainers are expensive (I still blame Tumblr for the rise in cost of Air Max 90s). If this trainer-obsessed life is one I want to continue living, I’ve realised that buying new ones every payday isn’t sustainable. I thought why not revamp my own?

An extensive Internet search gave me numerous options of how I could effectively ‘Fix My Kicks’. The height of my search was Air Force 1s with a hand-painted imitation of The Great Wave painting, which I deemed impossible very quickly. Then there were the garish zig-zag styles circa 2009 that were drawn (using what looks like a marker pen on its last legs) on those white lace-up plimsoles we all used to buy from Primark. I hoped to actually wear my creations so that was a no, too.

The utensils: acrylic paint, paintbrush, fine point pen, permanent gold marker

Photo by: Grace Shutti


I evaluated my artistic ability as little to none so I searched for prints by artists’ whose work I already liked. I decided on some characters and prints by Keith Haring, a graffiti-inspired artist whose humanised figures and intricate patterns are recognisable on sight. I bought a pack of acrylic paints, a thin paintbrush, and used pens I could find lying around, so it cost about £15. The bulk of that was from the paint, so if you know the individual colours you want, it could be a lot cheaper.

The utensils: acrylic paint, paintbrush, fine point pen, permanent gold marker

Here’s how it went:

If you’re using an old pair, clean your trainers as much as you need to so you have a good base. Full disclosure: I bought some trainers for a few pounds because I was terrified I was going to destroy my own, but I think their cheapness outweighs my cheating.

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Photo by: Grace Shutti

I wanted to create a speckled sole, so I protected the canvas material with paper and masking tape. I dipped a toothbrush in white paint and flicked the brushed to create tiny speckles on the sole. Where I wanted bigger spots I used a thin paintbrush to add them in. After doing the first one I realised I went a little too heavy on the speckles, so I scratched off most of the bigger spots. I did less for the second, which I think looks more natural.

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Photo by: Grace Shutti

After the soles dried I peeled off the covering and taped the soles to protect them while I painted the canvas material. I sketched out the Haring characters using pencil and started painting on the red acrylic. It took a few layers before the colour was thick enough so I alternated between shoes while the layers dried. Using a paintbrush left the edges fuzzy, so I outlined them using a black marker.

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Photo by: Grace Shutti

This was almost my finished product, but by this point was so impressed by how well it was going I decided to do more. I went looking for more Haring inspiration and decided I would attempt some of his intricate print designs. I found one that was relatively easy to replicate and used a gold permanent marker to draw it on the tongue and the small strip at the back of the trainers.

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Photo by: Grace Shutti

Half an hour and a lot of accidental fume inhalation later, this was what the print looked like. I started off trying to copy it exactly, but after a while it was easier to just make the shapes up.

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Photo by: Grace Shutti

The finished product is definitely better than I thought it was going to be considering my aforementioned lack of artistic ability. I think they key is to keep it simple if you don’t really know what you’re doing and try to find a theme you can stick to.

It’s unlikely that I’m going to dedicate this much time to customising trainers in the future, but I enjoyed the process of making something out of nothing. Even if I indulge in the occasional new pair of trainers, at least I know I don’t have to empty my bank account for my feet to look cool.

To see a time-lapse of the process, you can watch the video here

If you share Grace’s obsession or you’ve tried your hand at customising and creating your own stuff, get at us – @rifemag

Walk those fresh kicks over to Sanctum to enjoy 522 hours of creative goodness in a roofless church.