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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Nike Air Force 1 Low "Off-White"

Customizer: Dank Customs
Year: 2013

The Stash Air Max 95 is one of the most coveted Maxes of all time, and it’s no wonder why…they’re pure fire. And while we’ve seen Nike and Stash cook up some other dope drops, none have turned heads like those 95s. These Air Max 1s on the other hand, would break some necks. We know that the Stash AM 95 colorway is one of the most popular Nike iD makeups out there. But Dank Custom’s work on these bangers is the best we’ve seen.

Air Jordan IV "Command"

Customizer: Emmanuel Labor
Year: 2012

We’ll be honest, these “Command” Air Jordan IVs, done up by Emmanuel Labor, are some of our absolute favorite customs of all time. They take everything we love about the iconic colorway of the Air Command Force, and apply it masterfully to a silhouette we love even more. And, with the recent success of those “Billy Hoyle” retros, an official release of something like this would certainly move the meter…these are fantastic.

Nike Air Force 1 High "Diptych"

Customizer: SBTG
Year: 2003

The proliferation of the custom sneaker game has grown in tandem with the exponential growth of overarching sneaker culture. But, there are some true OGs still in the game today, and SBTG is one of the most important. Back in 2003, NikeTalk ran a customs contest, and this “Diptych” Air Force 1 High was SBTG’s entry. SBTG would go on to drop countless awesome customs (and official Nike drops), and nearly all of them take at least a little inspiration from these gems (see his 2006 SB Dunk). What we like so much about these is that, if you laid out all the colors and patterns involved here, you’d never guess they’d come together as well as they do here. But that’s what good customizers do. We’d love to see Nike come correct and drop an official version of these AF1s as some sort of commemorative release.

New Balance 999 "South Beach"

Customizer: PMK Customs
Year: 2012

You might know PMK Customs from the countless blog posts about his work for high-profile clients like LeBron James and Jay Z, or perhaps his equally wild exotic leather boots (Ostrich Wheat Timbs anyone?). But, as with most things these days, we lean on the side of simplicity. Here, PMK hits up a basic grey New Balance 999 and gives it a familiar “South Beach” look. Sure, South Beach customs are a dime a dozen nowadays, but we appreciate the subtlety used here. These are clean.

Nike Air Max 1 "Supreme"

Customizer: Mache Custom Kicks
Year: 2012

Another go-to colorway for customizers everywhere is the iconic “Supreme” makeup. Referencing Supreme’s first (and perhaps most famous) Nike collabs, their 2002 SB Dunks, Mache absolutely murks this duo of Air Max 1s. You’ve no doubt seen these colorways applied numerous times elsewhere, but Mache yet again shows us how it’s done. Hopefully Nike is taking notes.

Nike Dunk High "Freddy Krueger"

Customizer: El Cappy
Year: 2012

With the recent high top retros of the “Tiffany” and “Cali” colorways, there is a real chance that these fire Dunks from El Cappy could actually see retail. While we’d love to see high top takes on the “Heineken” or “Aloha” colorways, these “Freddy Krueger” Dunks would be absolutely killer. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Air Jordan IV "Roscoe"

Customizer: Mache Custom Kicks
Year: 2013

Mache just continually kills the game with his amazing custom work, and these “Roscoe” Air Jordan IVs are a perfect example of why he arguably sits atop the custom world. Inspired by Mr. Air Force 1 Rasheed Wallace himself, these IVs are just so, so dope. We love the attention to detail, particularly the “Ball Don’t Lie” insoles. These would be an amazing Hyperstrike release.

Nike Air Max 90 "Amsterdam Hyperstrike"

Customizer: Dank Customs
Year: 2013

See, one thing we’ve always loved about custom kicks is that they give folks like us the opportunity to cop sneakers (or, at the very least, lookalikes) that we never would have had the opportunity to get at retail. Here we see a fresh take on the legendary friends-and-family sample “Albert Heijn” Air Max 1 colorway from 2005. Here, the boy Dank Customs got down with that gorgeous orange and blue colorway on the AM1s brother, the Air Max 90, and we think it looks dope. Hey Nike, how about releasing THESE next time!

Air Jordan VI "Black Cement"

Customizer: El Cappy
Year: 2012

With the release of the recent Air Jordan III-inspired Federer Vapors, it got us thinking about other silos that would look sweet with JB’s iconic cement colorway. But obviously, this isn’t a new idea. Customizers have been doing this for years. But our favorite has been El Cappy’s gorgeous Air Jordan VI. These just LOOK like an official JB release. Fantastic work Cap!

Air Jordan IV "Tiffany"

Customizer: Mache Custom Kicks
Year: 2013

Of course, if you know anything about custom kicks, you already know the “Tiffany” colorway is a often-used go-to, on any number of silos. And while Mache wasn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last, as usual, he probably did it best with his work on these fire Air Jordan IVs. Using the “Green Glow” IVs as a base, Mache bodied these.

Air Jordan 5 Low White/Cement

Customizer: Dank Customs
Year: 2013

Here we have Dank Customs doing his thing on the 2007 women’s AJ V Low. Hitting up these lows is the familiar White/Cement color scheme from the iconic AJ IV. We always wonder if Nike (or other companies) take customizers seriously. We hope they do, because these look like an actual retail drop…one we’re hoping actually happens in the near future!

Air Jordan IV "Bordeaux"

Customizer: Dank Customs
Year: 2013

The “Bordeaux” colorway is probably our favorite within the Air Jordan VII canon, but it’s a tricky one for customs. See, many folks try to get off the Bordeaux look, but end up falling flat in either the execution of colors, or simply by choosing a silo that doesn’t suit the color scheme very well. However, Dank Customs knocked this pair of Air Jordan IVs out of the park. Jordan Brand should take note and give us another solid take on the “Bordeaux” colorway, starting with these IVs.

Nike Air Max 1 "Unkle Max"

Customizer: Dank Customs
Year: 2013

In our opinion, the 2006 “Unkle” Dunks are some of the best Nike’s ever released. So we’d be amped at the opportunity to see that colorway bless other Nike staples, like these excellent Air Max 1s from Dank Customs. Sure, we’ve seen tons of “Unkle” colorways. But again, not many (if any) have done it better than Dank.

Air Jordan VI "Denim"

Customizer: JBF Customs
Year: 2013

If you’ve been reading our site for a while, you already know we’re big fans JBF Customs’ work. Simply put, he’s the one you want doing your high-quality customs. If you’re unfamiliar, most of his work are pretty straight-forward luxurious ports of Air Jordan silos. You want Python Air Jordan Is? JBF got you (if you’ve got the paper of course). But we absolutely love his unorthodox “Denim” Air Jordan VI. We know we’re not about to see ostrich leather on an AJ VI, but we’d be first in line for some Denim VIs. These are dope.

Air Jordan V Low "Grape"

Customizer: Mache Custom Kicks
Year: 2014

Yeah, we know, “Again with the V Lows?” Sorry, not sorry…these are fire. Frankly, we’re surprised we haven’t seen more Air Jordan V Lows hit the retro circut. With all the attention the AJ XI Lows have gotten in recent years, it’s surprising that JB hasn’t tried their hand at retroing some of the other strong low tops in their arsenal. These Grape V Lows that Mache cranked out would kill.

Nike Air Max 1 "Stash"

Customizer: Dank Customs
Year: 2013

The Stash Air Max 95 is one of the most coveted Maxes of all time, and it’s no wonder why…they’re pure fire. And while we’ve seen Nike and Stash cook up some other dope drops, none have turned heads like those 95s. These Air Max 1s on the other hand, would break some necks. We know that the Stash AM 95 colorway is one of the most popular Nike iD makeups out there. But Dank Custom’s work on these bangers is the best we’ve seen.

Air Jordan XI "Gum"

Customizer: Mache Custom Kicks
Year: 2014

Mache’s “Gum Bottom” Air Jordan XIs are just fantastic. With Jordan Brand toying around with icy soles in recent years, we’re wondering why we haven’t gotten more Js with gum soles. We know that there are a pair of Air Jordan Is on deck, but let’s be real, these XIs would cause riots at shopping malls everywhere. Mids or Lows…both pairs could GET IT.

Nike Roshe Run "Air Mag"

Customizer: Team Roshe
Year: 2014

Because of their meteoric rise in popularity, coupled with their relatively low cost, it’s no wonder the Nike Roshe Run is a favorite of customizers everywhere. And, while we’ve seen several try their hand at the “Air Mag” colorway, none have executed it as well as the folks over at Team Roshe. See friends, this is how you do a Roshe custom.

Air Jordan VI Low "Encore"

Customizer: Dank Customs
Year: 2014

Eminem’s near unicorn-like “Encore” colorway has been a frequently used customs trope as long as we can remember. But until Dank Customs did it this year, we’d never seen it on an Air Jordan VI Low. These are absolute fire.

Nike Air Force 1 High "Mr. Brainwash"

Customizer: Mr. Brainwash
Year: 2014

We know, we know; a lot of people catch feelings about Mr. Brainwash’s art work. But his Air Force 1s (and Internationalists) he released in super-limited numbers this year, were crack. Now, we know it’s unlikely that Nike would get on board with a full-on retail release of these Forces. But, we’ve seen them do artist series’ before (see: Dave White), and we love this type of paint splatter look on those crispy AF1s.

Nike Tiempo Mid "Camo"

Customizer: JBF Customs
Year: 2014

Again, we know that Nike isn’t about to start dropping real ostrich leather on their kicks, but we love what JBF Customs did with this “Camo” Tiempo Mid. The mid has long been our preferred version of the Tiempo, and we’d love to see Nike give the mid-top silo a little more camo treatment.

Air Jordan IV "Shanghai"

Customizer: Mache Custom Kicks
Year: 2014

This one just seems too obvious not to do. When Jordan Brand dropped the Asia-exclusive “Shanghai Shen” Air Jordan V, we were all heated that we could never get our hands on a pair for ourselves, without throwing down some major paper. But as always, Mache makes the impossible possible by blessing the Vs older brother, the AJ IV with this super clean colorway. This one would be like shooting fish in a barrel.

Nike Kobe 9 "Conversion Series"

Customizer: Dank Customs
Year: 2014

Another one from Dank Customs that we could actually see becoming a reality is his excellent Kobe 9 “Conversion” series. You see, the ultra high-top Kobe 9 has seen some fantastic colorways, whereas the more popular low top version has seen far fewer. Here, the boy Dank gives us the best of both worlds by taking those fire high top colorways and blessing the lows with them. Nike could pull this one off easily. Nice work Dank!

Air Jordan VI "FLOM"

Customizer: El Cappy
Year: 2014

The holy grail of SB Dunks would make an absolutely stunning Air Jordan VI makeup. That is, if JB took it’s inspiration from El Cappy’s work here. We know that chances are slim. But, if these were to ever hit retail, you’d probably need to quit your job just so you could camp out for the chance to purchase them. These are just beautiful and incredibly detailed.

Asics Gel Lyte III "Adolph Rupp"

Customizer: Dank Customs
Year: 2014

With their recent rise in popularity, it makes sense that we’ve seen a proliferation of Asics customs hit the market in recent years. But, while most custom Asics focus on giving us something we’ve already seen (like the “Salmon Toe” on a Gel Lyte V), rarely do we see anything new. Enter Dank Customs and his fantastic “Adolph Rupp” Gel Lyte IIIs. Done up to honor one of the winningest college basketball coaches of all time, these IIIs are just perfect…especially if you’re a UK fan. Go Big Blue.

JBF Customs x Air Jordan 1

Customizer: JBF Customs
Year: Varies

Look, we know that Jordan Brand using the type of ultra-premium leathers that JBF Customs uses isn’t exactly realistic. But, they should take some notes here and try their hand at some higher-quality exotic leathers (perhaps for another run at the Bin 23 Collection?). Whatever they do, they should start with an Air Jordan I. JBF has shown us the way!

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