In the past two seasons, one-off custom footwear has spread like wildfire across the MLB. Customizers like Marcus Rivera (@solesbysir), Roly from @nomad_customs, True Blue Customs, and former college pitcher Dan Gamache (@mache275) turn pairs of cleats and sneakers into works of art, often transcending anything brands could possibly churn out as PEs. Custom footwear allows both the artist and the client to express themselves in a unique way.
Various MLB teams have color schemes that are not easily mixed with team colorway cleats. The Miami Marlins employ a rainbow of colors and with the customizers Soles by Sir and Nomad Customs in town. Marcell Ozuna, Henderson Alvarez, and (former Marlin) Logan Morrison all have commissioned Soles by Sir to create custom, and durable, pieces of art. Jose Fernandez, Derek Dietrich, and Jarred Cosart are just a few who’ve commissioned Nomad Customs.
Mache mainly perfects his craft on sneakers, but with his background in baseball and dabbling in cleat customization, he fits perfectly into this list. Being one of the few big time baseball fans in the sneaker world, it’s refreshing to see the Bold and Gold NB pack on an account other than NB Baseball’s, or the Big Apple Nike Free TR 5.0 from 2013. Hanley Ramirez, David Ortiz, Ben Zobrist, and Robinson Cano have all ordered exquisite customs from the man and they are some of the freshest cleats I’ve ever seen.
Often players opt to simply get the colorblocking redone on cleats, meaning changing the colors of the panels, and maybe add their number or their children’s names to the cleat. Nothing dramatic as details are rarely seen on TV. However some guys buck the trend and add crazy details to their cleats, Manny Machado’s wife commissioned custom Super.Fly 3s for his birthday with script describing Manny in the heel panel. Justin Nicolino and Jose Fernandez had splatter print and elephant print on their cleats. Logan Morrison had a simple colorblocking of the UA Deception that reveals the true beauty of the silhouette typically marred by the horrendous camo print on the upper.
Gradient fades dominate the custom cleat scene, they pop on foot and on camera. From white to orange or blue to gold, gradients are a clean look that simplifies the cleat and allows for a unique expression that avoids the unnecessary design lines of the paneling on the cleats. However in other cases, especially on the UA Deception, the true design lines can be highlighted and the overall cleat transcends any edition released by the company.
One of the other popular customs currently trending in the league come from Custom Cleats Inc., a company that converts regular sneakers into cleats. The plate from a cleat is removed and pasted to the outsole of the sneaker desired. Russel Martin and Josh Donaldson have taken advantage of this unique solution to uncomfortable cleats. Alcides Escobar made the odd choice of getting Lunar MVP turfs turned into cleats. In past seasons Kobe 8s have been popular conversions. The highlight conversion is the pair of Air Jordan 1s Mat Latos had created. Combining the painting and the cleat conversion, he created what may be termed a “super custom”.
My favorite custom cleats from Nomad Customs are a pair of New Balance Minimus cleats done for AJ Ramos (below). They utilize they colorblocking of the silhouette perfectly while adding the perfect amount of spice with the Marlins colorscheme. I am also very partial to white cleats in general.
My favorite Mache pair isn’t one but two pairs created for Nori Aoki. Two pairs of New Balance 4040v2s were redone with Nori’s number on the tongue and kanji script on the toe box. They pay tribute to his home country of Japan while retaining the flair of the cleat. The home pair’s white toe box sets it slightly ahead for me.
Carlos Gonzalez ordered an iridescent elephant print upper on a Nike Air Max MVP Elite 3/4 Molded PE from SolesBySir. Typically very well treated by Nike, Cargo went ahead and outdid the swag masters with this custom. Most sneaker customs fail to reach this level of pure excellence.
In the future we will see more cleats-turned-art and more players turn to this manner of expression, and we may see an even more exciting revolution on the hands of the players. Nomad Customs detailed an A2000 1788A for Aaron Harang earlier this year and Recon Beat Lab created a “carbon fiber” masterpiece for Shane Victorino last year. As we move forward into a fabulously flashy league, we may seen even more players opting for detailing their gloves, especially pitchers.
As the custom game grows in the Bigs, I will release new posts reviewing the newest and cleanest customs. Updates will likely be monthly or bimonthly.