Sneakerheads often refer to their footwear as art that you can wear and look at their sneakers as a canvas. And customizing sneakers has been around for decades. Whether it’s doodling on a pair of Converse Chucks while bored in class or elaborate and painstaking paint jobs that command thousands of dollars or just using Nike iD to create a pair of unique shoes, the idea of making a pair of sneakers one’s own has a strong appeal. It’s a way of standing out from the pack and expressing your personal level of taste.
Another trend has evolved that seems to come from a different motivation, however. The Supreme x Air Jordan Vs will easily go down as one of the best sneakers of the year. The hype surrounding them was such that Supreme didn’t even sell them at their stores in New York and Los Angeles for fear that a riot would break out. One dad even trolled the crap out of his son by replacing a real pair with a fake pair. When Sean Wotherspoon of Los Angeles sneaker boutique Round Two secured his pair, though, he did the unthinkable. He dipped them in red paint.
The stunt was done to create awareness for the store (Wotherspoon nicknamed the color choice “Round Two Red”) and the shoes were displayed on the ceiling of the space alongside a pair of Nike x Fragment Air Trainer 1s that had also been dipped in paint.
An outpouring of social media love, but more hate, followed. More than 225 people commented on the original video with lines like “give them to me instead of wasting them” and “why would he do that?”
Predictably, imitators followed. Artist CJ Hendry took two other highly coveted shoes—the incredibly rare Nike Air Mag and the only slightly less rare Adidas Yeezy Boost 350—and dipped each of them in black paint.
#sneakerdead #butthead @joshdinnyc I must give credit to Creative Recreation for their paint dipped Cesario XVI’s back in 2011. @theshoesurgeon for dipping his Jordan 4’s and dipping many many others. More recently @sean_wotherspoon for his red dipped Jordan Supremes. Thank you to all the 100’s of other sneaker dippers I have not mentioned, I wasn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last but I want you to know you have inspired me!
Hendry used the paint-dipped Air Mag as a reference for a massive 9-foot piece of art, whose purpose according to an earlier Instagram caption, was to “start a conversation about the sneaker head [sic] religion. #sneakerdead”
While Hendry’s actions may have started a conversation, they also highlight how the thin the line between provocative and trolling can be. On Snapchat, she posted images of the $8,710 receipt from Flight Club to prove that the shoes were real and even showed the shoes in a garbage pile with the caption “Come get em.”
The trend has continued. Someone even brought a pair of the Air Jordan and Drake collaborative sneakers to the guys at Round Two so they could dip them in paint and then took them to Japan. For better or worse, this is now Round Two’s brand. They are the guys who dip sneakers in red paint.
Dip dyeing is nothing new. Women often use the technique to change their hair color. Dip dyeing white canvas sneakers is a popular DIY project for crafters, at least according to Google search results. Maison Martin Margiela has incorporated paint in a number of its sneaker offerings, including its Converse collaborations. What makes these instances special is that there doesn’t seem to be any reason to do it other than “because I can.”
And it’s tough to argue with that. Telling people how they should treat their personal property is completely ludicrous. But would you be dipping rare and valuable sneakers in paint if there was no social media on which to post your exploits? Is this an endeavor that you truly find worthwhile or is it just a way to stir up the internet commentariat?
There really isn’t much of a difference between this and lighting cigars with $100 bills. Both are ways of showing the world that you don’t give a fuck about these items with a perceived value attached to them. But it isn’t that you DGAF because you’re some Buddhist who recognizes the inherent emptiness in material goods. It’s because you’re trying to show off. “I’m the type of person who can spend thousands of dollars on sneakers and then just dip them paint because I’ve got it like that.” In short, it seems like something Dan Bilzerian would do.
In the end, sneakers exist at the mercy of their owners. If they want to resell them, dip them in paint, or—shudder to think—wear them, that is their prerogative (shout out Bobby Brown). You just hope that whatever a sneakerhead decides to do with his kicks, it’s to make his or herself feel happy. Not to make others feel bad.