Burnout: Sneakers are a form of artistic self-expression

Shoe designs can portray personalities, support causes, make statements

By Will Burns, Senior Reporter

Shoes are tangible representations of the personalities of their wearer, and whether one enjoys standing out, holding back or simply not caring what they put on their feet, their shoes can tell a story.
Although everyday white sneakers are designed not to stand out and still look good when dirty, they can actively make a statement about their wearer by customization.
Personalized sneakers can serve as statement pieces that help a wearer express their support for a cause, stand out from their friends or become part of a greater community.
Nike’s annual program with the Oregon Health and Science University Doernbecher Children’s Hospital since 2003 has raised over $30 million by having children design shoes for a limited collection.
The children, who are current patients of the hospital, design shoes that incorporate various aspects of their personal lives and interests, creating unique colorways that are true expressions of themselves. This year the program auctioned off the sneakers on eBay and donated all proceeds to the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, according to the OHSU.
While not everyone has the chance to design a colorway — a term for the color scheme of a given shoe — of their favorite shoe with a brand, it’s still possible to customize shoes and use them as canvases to pieces of art.
Los Angeles-based artist Dominic Ciambrone creates custom shoes nearly from scratch, taking the sole of an existing shoe and working with clients to create a bespoke shoe.
Although most people are not likely creating their own shoes from scratch, there are plenty of simple methods of customization they can try such as drawing, painting, stenciling on designs with a marker or even sewing onto the uppers.
When people sport a variety of shoe styles and designs, they create a miniature art gallery consisting of all the feet that walk the streets on a daily basis.
Looking down and exploring the various “shoe galleries” around town can help reveal an often unseen aspect of local culture.
More people should start seeing shoes not as a common everyday object but as a simple and effective method of
self-expression that everyone can access, and take the opportunity to customize their sneakers.
Shoes aren’t just clothes, and they aren’t simply vessels for our feet to traverse the world in. They provide everyone with an unmatched opportunity to express themselves on a daily basis, and while there will never be a requirement to make a statement with one’s footwear, people should feel confident that they will always have the freedom to do so.