Quick History of the Shark Mouth

The ‘Shark Mouth’ design has been finding its way onto custom sneakers lately. The distinct red mouth and white teeth has a very military feel to it, so when its painting onto a pair of sneakers, you notice them. While this design was originally seen on fighter planes during World War 2, the shark mouth insignia has been a well known motif used in streetwear because of its clean design aesthetic.

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Recently, we saw these Jordan 10 X BAPE were made Chris Lowe, referencing the BAPE ‘Shark’ hoodie that first dropped back in 2004. The BAPE hoodie really brought this design into the mainstream. 

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These Nike Huarache Utility Customs aptly named the "Shark Attack” that customizer Concept Sneakers made.

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Not too mention these Timbs done by k2Soles. The shark mouth really pops on this dye job.

(Source: @k2soles)

But the shark mouth doesn't just end up on sneakers and hoodies. This is insane LV bag was serviced by customizer Eric Ramirez.

(Source: @ericram)

The famous ‘shark mouth’ insignia goes back to the 1940s during World War 2. 1st American Volunteer Group, also known as the Flying Tigers, painted the now iconic shark mouth on the noses of their Curtiss P-40 Warhawks. There had been German and British planes that used  a similar nose painting, but the Flying Tigers made the design famous.

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Seeing a squadron of these pissed off fighter planes flying at you played into the psychological warfare of combat. What’s worse than a heavily armed, easy to maneuver fighter plane shooting at you thousands of feet off the ground? One that looks like a grinning shark.

(Source: Ipmsstockholm.org)

But the shark mouth wasn’t the only paintings found on the nose of fighter planes, but it was the calling card for the Flying Tigers. Other squadrons had their own unique nose art to separate themselves. Some would have a painting of a pin up model in various degrees of undress. At the time, this was very NSFW; but with a job like air combat, why not?

(Source: Acepilots.com)

If not a babe on the side of their planes, they might have their favorite cartoon character stomping riding a bomb. Those who really liked to stunt would have the number of enemy planes that they shot down represented.

(Source: Allposters.com)

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It’s funny to see how naturally customizing comes to people from one generation to the next. The pilots were given a blank slate, and naturally they put their own spin on it. So when you’re painting a shark nose on your sneakers, your tapping into a long history of customizing. You can thank these guys for making the shark nose iconic.

(Source: Wikipedia.com)