10 ways to customize your sneakers for the summer

I’m sure you’ve been informed (if not explicitly then surely, implicitly) that Air Force 1s are the shoe of the summer.

This is more or less the case every summer, given the fact that Air Forces are about as versatile and timeless as it gets in the case of white sneakers (you’d really be surprised at the capacity a plain white shoe has to be weirdly esoteric, believe me).

AF1s are a breath of fresh air for this very reason. But, their minimal nature has also obviously led restless millennials to want to take their Air Forces and make them their own. They’re the perfect DIY shoe, and are kind of like a coloring book with regard to stitching and lining and all that jazz.

So, TL;DR — they’re super fun to experiment with. If you’ve copped yourself a pair and want to set yourself apart from every other youth person with feet in your place of residence, look no further. Below are 10 awesome examples of how you can decorate your Air Forces (and of course, you could apply these to any white sneaker: I just have a fixation).

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1. The safety pin always wins

⛓⚙⚔ don’t get to close

A post shared by Tommy FIT ‘22! (@tj_r) on

(Don’t worry: you aren’t going to have to painfully navigate through 10 kind-of-rhymie subheadings to access the information I promised you— just a few).

This is one of my favorite AF1 DIYs: it’s simple, in that the shoes are still crisp and white, but the silver hardware makes them approximately 1000% harder. If you look closely, not only will you inevitably peep the criminally large safety pin going through the sneaker’s signature swoosh, but there are also a bunch of smaller ones that appear to be glued to the sole.

This pair is undoubtedly one of a kind, but throwing some hardware on these shoes has proven to be an effective mode of awesome customization.

2. Put a lock on literally anything you have in your closet at this point

I wrote more here about how locks have made their way from your desk side cabinet to your wardrobe, and how, further, it’s undoubtedly something to celebrate. That being said, these babies are another work of art by Tommy (@tj_r on Instagram).

This design is a bit more complex, but one major takeaway is the fact that locks, clips and keys make excellent accessories, as echoed in the aforementioned article.

You’d be surprised – even if you don’t have the time, patience or desire to master a detailed DIY like this one, putting a lock on something kind of makes it look as though you reinvented the wheel.

3. If you’re already an artist…

These customizations are always hyper intimidating to me, considering they require actual artistic ability. But if you’re somebody who loves to draw, regardless of if it’s something you do often or consider yourself to be “good at”, this is actually a really fun mode of self-expression.

One easy hack if you have zero confidence in your artistic ability, though: stickers! (And, another hack: be confident! Everyone has the capacity to be creative like this).

And, as I said before, Air Force 1s are the perfect shoes to color in and draw on because the lines and stitching are so clearly defined. Think coloring book, but better and easier than whatever it is you’re thinking right now.

4. The 2-D trend

I first started seeing this concept late last year, when I came across artist and designer Joshua Vides on Instagram.

As you can see, the idea here is that the way the pen lines are drawn on the shoe makes them look almost as though they are drawn or sketched on paper, and makes them look sort of 2-D in a way that isn’t unlike an optical illusion. This framework is a red thread throughout Vides’ work, though of course his custom Air Force 1s stole the show.

This idea is obviously cool as fuck and has since gained massive popularity. It’s something that seems easy enough to emulate, if you wanted to give it a try. Here, I found a pretty straightforward YouTube DIY video if you wanted to follow a step-by-step tutorial:

5. Just color the panels if you don’t want to fully commit


A post shared by MattB Customs (@mattbcustoms) on

This sick design by @Mattbcustoms is a really cool way of going about customizing these. By coloring just the panels in, you can focus on smaller details. Plus, it gives the shoes a more refined look and makes it look like you actually copped them at the Nike store.

6. Or, alternatively, just color the swooosh

Did you know ‘swoosh’ had three O’s in it? (That was a joke).

Anyway, another cool take might be for you to just go ahead and go in on the swoosh itself and leave the rest of the shoe blank. This dripping design seems pretty advanced for a beginner like myself, but if you want to achieve a similar look you could always use patterned duct tape and cut in in the shape of the swoosh.

(At this point I’ve said swoosh an uncomfortable amount of times only because I feel there is no suitable alternative in the English language).

7. Just use good old fashioned pen

This blue pen AF1 design is all sorts of amazing, and the fact that this is an incredibly cool drawing in general might have something to do with that. Even if you don’t want to go into this much graphic detail, coming across this image made me realize that just kind of doodling and scribbling around on AF1s with a gel pen may actually result in something incredibly cool and authentic looking. Your middle school composition notebook is shaking.

8. Flames are always a safe bet

Whether they’re on a Harley Davidson tee, a tattoo, or your brand new Air Force 1s, flames as an aesthetic symbol seem to be universal loved and valued. I’m sure there’s some evolutionary/Freudian reason as to why that is, which we’ll save for another article.

9. Just swap the laces

This is actually the best way to achieve a unique look for your sneaks with minimal effort. Nowadays, you will quite literally be able to find any and every variation of shoelace you could possibly imagine. That being said, the creative potential is actually boundless.

Also, if you’re stress-prone when it comes to DIYs, this is a nice way of sprucing up your shoes without running the risk of “ruining” them.

10. Spray paint

Another alternative to manually drawing on the shoes themselves is using spray paint and those little cut-out stencils. This way, you can achieve almost any design in any color without having to rely on your ability to execute it. Though spray painting itself isn’t always easy, once you have it down there’s nothing you can’t do.

I know— if you thought for even one moment that there were a finite amount of ways to make your AF1s the coolest shoes you’ve ever owned, you were sorely mistaken.

This is absolutely just further proof that there really is something for everyone out there RE footwear and even more specifically RE white athletic footwear. I think I’m gonna go ahead and cop another pair of Air Forces just to decorate ’em. Who’s with me?

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