Mache Discusses the Custom Sneaker Movement, Creative Process & His Start

To say custom kicks took off in the past year would also be the understatement of the year. Led by a large group of talented artists, the movement has wavered in mainstream and underground popularity over recent decades, with a burgeoning boom all but dominating today’s sneaker blogosphere.

Dan Gamache, better known as Mache, is one of the select few at the forefront of custom culture, consistently crushing with quality and quantity. We caught up with the man behind the brush to discuss his start, his favorite paint jobs, and his advice to aspiring customizers.

Nice Kicks: What got you into sneakers?

Mache: Just like most of the people growing up did, I idolized Michael Jordan and Bo Jackson. Growing up I didn’t have much money, so when I did get a pair of sneakers I cherished those things. The first pair of sneakers I bought for myself was the black and silver Air Jordan 5s back in 1990. I mowed lawns all summer to get the money to get them. Those started the love affair [laughs].

Michael Jordan & Bo Jackson (images via SI Vault)

Nice Kicks: How did you get your start making customs?

Mache: I was always into art. I went to school for fine arts and I was also on a baseball scholarship. At that point in college I was crazy into sneakers, and back in 2004 I had happened to see some customs featured in a Complex magazine issue. My competitive nature said, “I can do better than that”. So, down I went into my basement with some beat up all white AM90s and I slathered a bunch of different shades of purple on them. I wanted to make a Dipset themed pair — goes to show you when this was — and I thought they were the best things ever. In hindsight they were terrible, but that was the very first Mache custom.

Nice Kicks: Which creation is your personal favorite?

Mache: Whatever my newest pair is! [Laughs] But seriously, I loved the “Spiderman” Flightposite 3s I made. They were just a base that I don’t think anyone else thought of touching. I like doing more creative stuff, even though my recent catalog may not exactly say that. I encourage people to go on my site and look at my older stuff, it may not be as factory looking as the stuff I put out now, but it was definitely creative.

Nike Air Flightposite III “Spiderman” by Mache Customs

Nice Kicks: In regard to celebrity clients, who have you done work for?

Mache: Over the years I’ve had a pretty good client list: Rasheed Wallace, Kobe Bryant, Pharrell Williams, Wale, DJ Premier, Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West, Fat Joe, the GZA, Marcus Gilchrist, and Wilson Chandler. I’m currently working with a few other notable people but I won’t say anything until the projects are done.

Air Jordan 13 “Draft Day” for Marcus Gilchrist by Mache Customs

Nice Kicks: Are your designs meant to be wearable or as a display piece?

Mache: It’s definitely wearable art. I always tell people besides the Foams — I just don’t trust the urethane — all my stuff is cool for casual wear. The majority of my stuff is painted so it can scuff, but hey, the major companies can’t make paint that doesn’t scuff either so I guess I’m doing okay.

Nice Kicks: Where do you draw inspiration from?

Mache: Usually, just the things that have turned me into who I am today. I was born in 1979, so I’m truly an 80s baby. The music, TV shows, movies, and of course the sports and athletes. A lot of my themed shoes are from those areas. I’m also influenced by the habits of today’s sneaker culture. I know hype sells and I also know that not everyone can get these shoes that seem to drop every weekend. I like to make an alternative for them. That’s what I?ve been doing for myself and luckily others like it and want me to make them their own pairs. Take the “LeBronald Palmers” or the “Nerfs”. Most people didn’t have a shot to get those, especially the Palmers since that shoe was only for LeBron. I’m giving people the opportunity to have a pair of their own.

Nike LeBron 9 Low “LeBronald Palmer” by Mache Customs