A Brief History of Unauthorized Customs


The custom sneaker game is filled with all sorts of creative makeups, but sometimes the work is so good that it leaves you convinced it is an official production.

With this feature we take a look at multiple customs produced over the last few years that we feel if the actual sneaker company, such as Nike or Jordan, teamed up with a particular brand or artist, such as Sony or KAWS, these results could be what an official release would look like.

Take a look and feel free to let us know in the comments section below which ‘unauthorized’ custom from this grouping ranks as the best to you or just your personal favorite!

Nike SB Blazer High "Undefeated"

Year: 2011
Customizer: Desp1

With their history of fantastic collaborations, especially when paired up with the Swoosh boys, when UNDFTD is dropping a collab, we’re always listening. Always. So, we were super-bummed when we found out these awesome military-themed SB Blazers were just customs. Done up by the super-talented Desp1, these Blazers are just awesome. We’ve always been a big fan of the silo, and would love a chance to get a hold of a colorway like this. ARE YOU LISTENING NIKE?

Air Jordan III "Dave White"

Year: 2012
Customizer: Mache Customs

Quite simply, it’s extremely rare for someone to get a chance to collab on a coveted Air Jordan silo. But, Dave White has already achieved that accolade. So with the success of 2011s “Wings for the Future” campaign, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Nike/JB continued that program on another iconic Jordan. And, it’s still not impossible. But, until they bring the III back, these excellent customs from Mache will have to hold us over.

Air Jordan IV "Tiffany"

Year: 2013
Customizer: Mache Customs

Sure, not a lot of people get the chance to collaborate on an Air Jordan silhouette. But, if we’re talking about prospective partners, Nicky Diamonds and the folks over at Diamond Supply Co. have the historical relationship, success and talent to pull off a JB collab. And we’d like to think that, if the two entities ever did link up, the result would look like what Mache Customs Kicks put together with his “Tiffany” IVs. So many flame emojis.

Nike Air Max 1 "UNKLE"

Year: 2013
Customizer: Dank Customs

One of our favorite customizers out there today is Jake Danklefs, aka Dank. And these “UNKLE” Air Max 1s are a perfect example of why he’s so high up on our list. Okay, so we’ve seen Nike take famous SB Dunk Lows and transplant the colorways on to Highs. But, what if Nike started moving on to other iconic silos? We’d like to hope that they’d start with something like this, on our favorite Air Max. These are very well done.

Nike SB Dunk Low "KAWS"

Year: 2013
Customizer: Dank Customs

Speaking of Dank Customs, when we first saw these Dunk Low “KAWS” joints, we had to do a double-take. We know that KAWS has previously linked with Nike to get down on some v. dope AF1 and Air Max joints. So, when we saw these Lows, we were hyped to see that the two were going in to complete the trilogy. Unfortunately for us though, these are just the work of an extremely talented customizer.

Nike Air Force 1 High "Bape"

Year: 2013
Customizer: JBF Customs

This Bape, Air Force 1 joint from JBF Customs is one of our favorites in recent memory. Not only are both brands awesome, but the history between the two, and with regard to this silhouette, would have made for an amazing collaboration. Re-purposing the material from an old (and dope) Bape jacket, JBF did his thing on just three pairs of these bangers.

Nike LeBron X Low "112"

Year: 2013
Customizer: DeJesus Customs

DeJesus Customs’ “112” LeBron X Low is another shoe that had us kicking rocks when we found out they were customs. With the history of LeBron’s signatures getting the exclusive 112 treatment, and the timing (this was right around the time the Primitive/112 pack dropped), these could have easily been an official release. Unfortunately though, this was just the work of a very talented artist.

Nike Air Max 1 "Stash"

Year: 2013
Customizer: Dank Customs

Similar to Jeff Staple and his Pigeon colorway, Stash is another artist who is easily recognizable in terms of a consistent color palette. We all know about Stash’s infamous Air Force and Air Max 95 collabs, which is why we’ve always wanted to see him get down on the Air Max 1. Look, we know these are the work of Dank Customs. But if Stash did eventually get his hands on the AM1s, he be hard-pressed to do it any better than this.

adidas ZX 5000 "Pigeon"

Year: 2014
Customizer: Zhijun Wang

Outside of the “Bred” Jordan I or Yeezy iterations, there are few colorways to see more customizations than Jeff Staple’s “Pigeon” makeup. And for good reason: it’s fantastic. That said, Staple took to social media a while back and shared some of his favorites, which had his followers jumping at the thought that they might have another shot at a “Pigeon” sneaker. Here we have some fire adidas ZX5000s. We already know that Staple likes to go to the well (so to speak) on that Pigeon colorway, and it did seem like a realistic silo for him to go after. But, if you want a pair of these babies, you’re going to have to hit up customizer Zhijun Wang of ZX Designs for that one.

Air Jordan III "Bape Ice Cream"

Year: 2014
Customizer: JBF Customs

Okay, so we know that getting a collab on the Air Jordan III is unheard of. And if JB did link with a brand, it’s not likely to be someone whose most significant footwear releases include an Air Force 1 rip-off and adidas collabs. BUT IF THEY DID, oh man, these Bape x Ice Cream Jordan IIIs would be so killer. We know the folks over at BAPE and Ice Cream are always thinking outside the box, so this amazing custom by JBF Customs would fit right in-line with what we’d expect. Too bad they were 1-of-1s.

Air Jordan III "MCM"

Year: 2014
Customizer: Maggi

Sure, this one may have been a little far-fetched, but the craftsmanship of this customizer had us thinking about the possibilities. If you didn’t already know, MCM is a high-end German company that makes fire leather accessories. So, much like Horween and Vans, New Balance and the like have teamed up, it’s not unfathomable to think JB may be considering something similar. Shouts to Russian customizer Maggi here, top-notch work.

Nike Kobe 9 Elite "UConn"

Year: 2014
Customizer: Mache Customs

The UConn women’s basketball team stays winning and Husky fans everywhere wish they could be winning with a pair of these Kobe 9 Elite customs in their collection. Created by Mache in 2014 for coach Geno Auriemma after the Huskies capped off a perfect 40-0 season, we could certainly see these Nike’s as an official release between the Swoosh and UConn as the color scheme and detail on these are super on-point.

New Balance 999 "Pigeon"

Year: 2014
Customizer: Alexander John

Another “Pigeon” custom that had us stretching our Shift+F5 muscles in anticipation of an official release are these gorgeous New Balance 999s. Done up by customize Alexander John, these could easily pass as an official release. Staple’s already done the “Pigeon” colorway with New Balance before, so why wouldn’t he do it again? And be real, these are just REALLY good. We’re particularly fond of the wing stencil on the midsole. So awesome.

Air Jordan IV "PS4"

Year: 2015
Customizer: FreakerSNEAKS

Sony and Nike have already linked up and dropped some extremely limited sneakers in the past. So when we saw these PS4-themed Air Jordan IVs, the promotional tie-in just clicked for us. But, as so often is the case, it turned out to be not the real deal. That said, these PS4 joints, done by FreakerSNEAKS, are very well executed.

Air Jordan VII "Dave White"

Year: 2015
Customizer: Dank Customs

Another A-1 “Dave White” custom came to us again by Dank Customs. This time, Dank turns heads on the Air Jordan VII silo. An interesting choice, but the execution was such that they could easily be mistaken for the real McCoy.

Nike Air Force 1 High "Misplaced Checks"

Year: 2015
Customizer: John Geiger & The Shoe Surgeon

For a long time now, sneakerheads have taken to referring to DJ Clark Kent as the “King” of the Nike Air Force 1. But, in recent years, a challenger to the throne has emerged. While John Geiger has been killing the Instagram game for a minute now, it’s been his recent turn on the customization circuit with customizer The Shoe Surgeon, that has gotten so much attention. Introducing this crazy-limited version of the AF1 High dubbed the “Misplaced Checks,” Geiger had folks doing a double-take and hitting up their Nike plug. Just look at the details. When you take into account his previous experience working with Nike (he’s Darrelle Revis’ marketing & business manager and was an important part of the Nike Zoom Revis project), we were actually hoping these were an official release so we could have a chance at ’em!

Nike Air Force 1 Low "Off-White"

Year: 2015
Customizer: Anonymous (at this time)

Speaking of Air Force 1s, there aren’t many customs out there that get shine from the people they’re actually “ripping off.” But that was the case with these excellent “Off-White” AF1 Lows when Virgil Abloh, Off-White’s founder, shared them via social media last week. The Yeezy-Nike connection means that a collabo with Abloh and the Swoosh wouldn’t be unfathomable. But alas, they’re just an extremely well-done custom, by an as-yet unidentified fan. We hope the customizer becomes known soon because they obviously have talent, and the masses always have ideas.


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