January 6, 2023

Footwear for Expression

Many professional sports leagues now allow athletes to develop and wear custom athletic footwear to convey a message. Thanks to rule changes in recent years, the NFL, NBA, and MLB are giving their players a chance to express what they are passionate about.  This shift in approach to self-expression began during the 2018 NBA season when rulebook adjustments allowed players to wear any color sneakers during games. Prior to this change, players were required to wear shoes that matched their team colors. Moves like these have become instrumental in giving players more freedom to express themselves and their flair for style and impact market demand for these custom pieces.

Athletes now have another platform to boost their image and showcase their love for art, design, and passions off the court. Collaborating with sneaker professionals, these players can bring their wildest imaginations to fruition. In essence, players are able to wear their hearts on their shoes. This type of visual communication fosters a pure and authentic form of self-expression. Today, we’re exploring some recent examples of players using custom footwear to define and capitalize on their personal brand.

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1. Venezuela x Atlanta

When William Contreras was a member of the Atlanta Braves, he used his playoff cleats to support his home country of Venezuela and the city of Atlanta. Contreras’ cleats became a canvas to express his love, respect, and passion for his country. The design broadcasted a deeper story about his personal life to the entire world.

2. Waffle House

Julio Jones, an NFL Wide Receiver, once broke out a custom-printed pair of Waffle House cleats during practice. When asked about his cleats, Jones told reporters, “I wear these cleats because, like Waffle House, I’m open 24/7.” This clever play on words showcased Julio Jones’ playful side and strong work ethic. His creative nod to Waffle House defined his personal brand as an athlete on and off the field.

3. Minnie Mouse

Langston Galloway, a Detroit Pistons player, created a pair of custom sneakers to voice his support for a greater cause. Galloway reminded fans that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month by debuting his eye-catching, pink sneakers. Galloway used customization to spread awareness about breast cancer and display his solidarity for those affected. His inclusion of the infamous Minnie Mouse also added a light-heartedness to his brand. Through his unique design, Galloway has been able to show his true colors and make a positive impact.

Providing the ability for athletes to showcase their passion points on the court or field is a powerful tool of expression via a global platform. This flexibility affords players the opportunity to not only be creative but to share a message of activism that can ultimately effect greater, positive change beyond just their sport. Whether for artistic purposes or beyond, fans and brands alike are taking notice of all of the unique footwear out there, and we expect to see more ways that brands collaborate with athletes in future campaigns through this custom avenue. 


  1. https://www.gq.com/story/nba-best-sneakers-2019-opening-nights
  2. https://www.google.com/search?q=julio+jones+waffle+house+cleats&sxsrf=AOaemvKFqJhISW-FHTSM8JSjrHG10O4I5Q:1631820307861&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=yyPw6cIWeyKD_M%252ClStL8MF5Icg_aM%252C_&vet=1&usg=AI4_-kTqQfFHgENa7Y1hDbJFTLMQMmUnew&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjM1qWunITzAhXPRTABHch4CKwQ9QF6BAgIEAE#imgrc=yyPw6cIWeyKD_M
  3. https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/24507661/nba-loosens-color-restrictions-sneakers
  4. https://www.instagram.com/p/CU6WfH4rZbX/

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