It seems like it's easier and easier to not appreciate true artist merit and craft. If you go on any thread about customizing, sneakers, art, creating stuff in general, you see those same comments: "it's aight" or "I could do better" or "you shoulda done it like this..." But when you get a guy like Marcus Rivero out there doing his thing, there's no denying real talent.
Recently, we were lucky enough to link up with an artist we greatly admire. The name Marcus Rivero might not ring a bell, but if you've ever bought Angelus Direct paint to customize a pair of sneakers or cleats, you've definitely heard the name Soles By Sir. This man is not only one of the most talented people to put paint on sneakers, but a great example of how someone can hustle to bridge that gap between a hobbyist and a legit businessman.
If you're a football fan, you've probably seen some custom cleats out on the gridiron. But there is only one Soles and each one of his cleats is a 1of 1 masterpiece. Marcus was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to chat with us about the world of customizing, the artistic hustle, and how what it takes to turn your passion into a paycheck.
Angelus Direct: While its almost guaranteed that anyone into custom sneakers, sneakers in general, and football has heard the name SolesBySir. For those who haven't, can you give us a brief introduction to yourself?
Soles by Sir: Well, I'm Marcus, aka SolesBySir. I do 1 of 1 customs. I live and paint in Miami, FL.
I started customizing about 3 years ago, and with alot of hard work, and some luck I have been able to slowly but surely grow from my first pair to where I am today. I somehow ended up finding my niche in cleats, furthermore being able to do them for professional athletes has become kind of my thing. I have done work for over 500 professional NFL athletes. Still even crazy to type that, but year thats me.
This year was lucky enough to work alongside Mache Customs, and make history being able to do the ENTIRE University of Miami Hurricanes football team, while Mache did Nebraska. It was the first time in history that EVERY athlete on the field was rocking 1 of 1 customs. And to be able to do it along side one of the best to ever do it, was a huge honor.
A: How long have you been customizing? And what got you started?
S: 3 years. Randomly, I wanted to get a gf a cool Valentines day gift. Always being a sneakerhead I decided on kicks. However, I didn't like the color the dunks came in. So i bought some paint, brushes, and 20 hours later had my first pair of customs.
A: You have a killer eye for colors and top notch brush control. Did you have a background in art/design before you got started?
S: Mom says I was always good at art, but I never did have training outside of elementary Art classes.
A: Outside of the custom world, your work has hit the mainstream by way of football. Did you originally start customizing sneakers before cleats?
S: I did about 10 pairs of sneakers before my first cleat. My first cleat was for a dude who would surely change my life and is currently one of my closest friends, Nolan Carroll. He was the one that URGED me to do cleats, against my better judgement at the time.
A: The intricate details that you put into each of one of your customs hold up incredibly well for the beating they take on the field, did you manage this by trial and error? Do you ever experiment with new painting techniques for longevity?
S: Yes, it was a long trial and error process, and heck im still constantly experimenting trying to push myself and my work further and further. And I am always trying to expand the life of my work on cleats.
A: If you have any secrets about the process, you don't have to give those away of course; but what does your prepping and painting process look like?
S: The Norm, prepping the shoe with good acetone, and taping along edges is really the most I can say. But I will note TAPING is everything. Don't slack.
A: Speaking of football, how did you get that first connect NFL/NCAA connect? You put out mind-blowing work for some the biggest names on the gridiron, could you talk a little about how all that came together?
S: Funny, my first contact was Nolan Carroll of the then Miami Dolphins. I did some Jordans for him, he liked my work next thing you know I was doing his cleats. It grew as his teammates started noticing him in 1 of 1's then, college teammates, then trades, and cut and resigns started happening. Before you know it I was getting calls from the likes of Marshawn, Dez, Odell etc.
A: After Adidas came through with Miami Hurricanes contract, did you have to switch up your approach to the customizing process to handle a massive order?
S. It def. was overwhelming. But it was a wild and crazy ride. I tried to do them in batches of 15-20 pairs at once. The total order was over 123 pairs.
A: You're running a successful custom business, which is probably every customizers dreams. Some people do custom work as a side-hustle in addition to their day job, is this a full-time thing for you now?
S: It currently is my "night time gig" I work my wholesale used tire company from 8 to 6, then head home to paint and customize from 9 till 3-4-5 am nightly. Sleep is an afterthought.
A: Thank you again for talking to us. Do you have any final business advice for customizers hustling to turn those Instagram likes into business contracts like you did?
S: Just be passionate. Be Kind, and be you. Don't try and copy someone else, or send DM's lol. Remember people want your work for its creativity and just overall coolness. Not because you hit them on the DM, or because you can save them 10 dollars. You would be surprised how many of my clients screen shot this nonsense and laugh.
Give each pair your best effort. And HAVE FUN with it!