Sneakers
From the ground up

There was a lot of talk leading up to last weekend’s super hyped boxing bout between Irish UFC frontman Conor McGregor and undefeated boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr.

There was a lot of talk about the gloves, about the training, about the purses, and there was definitely a lot of shit talk in general. One topic that was certainly scrutinised less than others – footwear. But weeks before the fight, Conor McGregor was already meditating on what to wear, which makes a lot of sense, because typically he fights barefoot in the octagon.

Longtime brand partner Reebok was McGregor’s natural choice, and while he certainly has an affinity for Gucci and Louis Vuitton footwear, unfortunately luxury kicks in that vein would not be allowed in the ring.

Enter @Solesbysir, real name Marcus Rivero a sneaker customiser from Florida who personalises cleats for most of the NFL. After being contacted directly by McGregor’s management, Rivero set to work on creating concepts that would eventually be worn by Conor in the big fight.

Check our exclusive interview below, alongside Marcus’s photo diary from the big night.

Marcus Rivero

First, how long have you been customising sneakers? Is it just a hobby for you?

This will be my fifth NFL season, and it all started with a gift I made for an ex-girlfriend. I only ever took art classes in middle school or elementary school. Four years ago for Valentine’s Day, I wanted to get my ex-girlfriend something other than flowers or candy, so I bought sneakers, and I didn’t love the colors they came in, so I bought paint and brushes online, and probably spent 20 hours on that shoe. She was super excited about it, she put it the shoes on Instagram, and people just started asking me for their own pairs.

I did like 8 or 9 pairs, then Nolan Carroll – who played for the Miami Dolphins at the time, currently he plays for the Dallas Cowboys – he must have seen one of those photos, and he reached out to me. He basically asked me to take these Jordans he had and customise them with a Statue of Liberty theme. I had no idea what that meant, but I met up with him, got the shoes, then bought my first air brush, and started spraying the shoe. So I sent him a photo of something I made, and he writes back “Oh, it’s okay.” That was like a dagger to the heart, so I kind of threw my phone on the counter, and it accidentally knocked over a bottle of acetone onto the shoe, then I grabbed a towel and started wiping the shoe, and it created this granite effect. Then I sent him another photo and he was like “Oh my god, I’m in love.” I think I only charged him like $100.

A month later he asked me to customize his game cleats, which he wore for three pre-season games. Not long after, he sent me a box of 12 Jordan cleats, and I customized every pair. I mailed them out, and it turns out the address was the Miami Dolphins training facility. Being the amazing person he is, Nolan gifts the cleats to his team mates, and they went bananas. So eight Dolphins called me that night, but today I’m working with around 600 NFL players.

That’s how it happened

Are you handling all these customs yourself?

I started by myself, I now have two full-time assistants, they do a lot of the organisation, photos, e-mails, so I just focus on the art. This isn’t even my main job, I own a wholesale tire company, then I change hats at around 5:00 PM and I paint until around 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. So the assistants help me out, and we pump out way more shoes that way.

Marcus Rivero

What other kind of celebrity commissions have come through?

Mostly athletes, it started with NFL and MLB, I’ve got a couple clients in the NHL. Then Conor was thrown in the mix. I’ve worked with rugby players. I deal with athletes for the most part, guys like Ray Allen too. Last year the NFL had an initiate called My Cause My Cleats where they allowed NFL players to wear customised cleats, as long as they were tied to a charitable foundation. I got involved with the teams directly on that project, and afterwords other brands started to reach out, including Microsoft, Hyundai, some others. Now I’ve even designed custom cars.

What is your personal taste in sneakers like?

I used to be a Nike Air Max guy, or Nike Shox, I never owned Jordans as a kid. It wasn’t me. Now that I’m getting into this custom world, I have everything. I’ve done work with adidas, Nike, Under Armour, Reebok, so at this point, I get so many car packages, and I buy so many as well. My collection is probably around 300 or 400 pairs. But the sneakers I really love, I can’t wear unless I paint them. I try my best to customize my own shoes.

Marcus Rivero

So moving on to Conor, how did he get in touch? Did he make specific requests for the design?

I get tons of DMs, most of my athletes actually come to me through DMs. So Conor’s manager at Paradigm Sport Management reached out to me, they let me know they were soliciting about four customisers to make Conor’s boots. Afterwards, they asked me to submit renderings, and at that point I had never done renderings. Conor’s was my first rendering. They wanted five designs, and eventually Conor narrowed it down to two customiers, and at that point they asked me for even more renderings.

I was running out of ideas, so I just googled Conor, and I noticed he loves pinstripes, from the suits to the shirts to the pants, he loves pinstripes. So I just decided to make the shoe pinstriped, and I added his logos. In the end we actually removed the pinstripes, and decided on how much gold to use. On Thursday when I was almost done, Conor asked for some last minute changes, and at that point I was worried because I had one pair of these shoes that were tailor made to his foot, so I didn’t want to mess them up.

They told me to jump on a flight to Las Vegas, so within two hours we were on a plane. We arrived Thursday before the fight, and I set up my studio in Conor’s manager’s suite at the Encore, and I worked the next nine hours until Friday morning to complete the shoe.

Marcus Rivero

Crazy. How was Vegas, and meeting Conor? Can you share some anecdotes about the event?

I didn’t know what to expect. Going into the weigh-ins, they hooked me up with amazing tickets and passes for everything. You couldn’t buy the type of passes I had. The night of the fight, we entered the venue through a special celebrity entrance, they rented out this whole VIP suite, and basically we had access to anywhere and everywhere. We ended up watching the fight from one of the lounges, like 15 or 20 rows up. It was an amazing fight, it’s unfortunate that Conor lost but it was still an amazing bout. So after we go back to the hotel where there was an afterparty hosted by Conor at Encore Beach Club, and I was in this friends and family area when Conor’s manager found me and says “Let’s go get McGregor.”

I didn’t expect anything, but Conor was beyond humble, super thankful, he’s a wild animal when you see him on TV, but he’s just a genuinely nice person. He apologised for asking me to make last minute design changes, he was very very thankful. I was in awe. We took some pictures. The next day, they invited me to a day party, they had a special cabana, and his manager was like “Conor wants to talk to you again.” Not only did we feel like VIPs, but he made a point of making us feel special. His whole family was there, I met his mother, sister, cousins, the only person I didn’t see was Conor Jr., who I actually made customs Jordan IVs for, with gold and white to match his dad’s boots.

When you see athletes, you build this idea of what they might be like, but he’s one of the most genuine, nice, thankful people I’ve done work for. I have nothing but good things to say about him. He’s like one of the boys. Not only did he bring his family, but he brought his childhood friends, and he wanted them to be treated as well as he was.

Marcus Rivero

Did you have the chance to discuss working together in the future?

We did, between myself, him and his agent. I tried to go above and beyond for this project, and they were thankful. I think this is the first of many projects between Conor and I.

What other customisers do you really look up to?

Yeah there are a lot. I know the Shoe Surgeon, I’ve worked with him before on a project. He’s more of a fabricator, because he actually takes the shoe apart and puts it back together with different materials. As far as customising and painting and graphics, one of the first guys I was ever introduced to was Mache. He works out of New York, we did a huge project three years ago. The University of Miami Hurricanes played the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers, and adidas contracted us both, I think I made 123 pairs for the University of Miami Hurricanes. Everybody was rocking custom cleats for that game. He’s given me a lot of advice over the years.

What are your thoughts on the YEEZY cleats?

I think they’re great, they’re dope. I know players that rock them, I’ve customised some. I like that the cleat world is getting some attention.

Marcus Rivero

What are some other celebrities you’d like to make custom gear for?

I would love to make some kicks for Pharrell, he has such a cool sense of style. Kanye would be up there, he’s another one that is just an icon. Justin Timberlake, he’s another sneakerhead. These are people that might put me out of my comfort zone.

If someone wants a custom pair from you, how much can they expect to pay?

It ranges depending on the work, but it could be anywhere from $500 to $2000 per shoe.

Can you tell us how much Conor paid for his pair?

I would like to, but on this particular project, my butt would end up in a court room somewhere.

Follow @Highsnobietysneakers on Instagram to stay updated.

  • Main & Featured Image: Christian Petersen / Getty Images
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