Charlotte artist paints sneakers for sports media stars
Jeremy Recoon’s life in Charlotte could have been described as indescribable. For years it was.
He is a young man in his twenties who followed his fiancée here for a job, working in sales at CommScope while he was recovering his MBA. Tryon Street is filled with Charlotteans who fit this description.
But at night, when most everyone has quit their jobs and settled down to bed, Recoon walks into his apartment’s guest bedroom, dons a painter’s mask, arms himself with an arsenal of paintbrushes and tells stories on the feet. Recoon, known as @charlotte_customkicks on Instagram, designs and handpaints custom sneakers for some of the nation’s top athletes and sports media personalities.
“If I watch ESPN, especially during football season or something, I’m probably going to see one of these people every day, which is just crazy,” said Recoon, Elon 2016 graduate.
Years of sales experience and a sports management degree don’t scream “artist to the stars,” and Recoon readily admitted that he had no artistic training. Instead, her lateral restlessness arose out of the same things everyone has been feeling at some point over the past year or so.
There was a pandemic and the world was stuck – bored and in need of money.
“Anyone who worked in ticket sales in any sport during the pandemic was likely affected and lost a lot of money,” said Recoon, who previously worked for the AHL Charlotte Checkers. “Since a lot of your salary is based on commissions, you lose a lot of it. “
To ease their boredom, Recoon and his fiancee Amy Livingston, both lifelong sports fans, watched the entirety of “The Last Dance,” ESPN’s 10-part documentary detailing the Chicago Bulls’ NBA Championship run. in 1998. Watching stars like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen – along with the fashions they sported and the music played throughout the documentary – gave Recoon a simple, nostalgic desire: to take off all the shoes he wore on adolescence.
“I’ve always loved sneakers,” Recoon said. “So I just went into my closet and found all the pairs of Jordans I had and I was like, ‘You know what? How can I take better care of it? ‘ So I started to refurbish them.
The search for ways to restore his shoes led him to YouTube, where he also saw instructional videos on different ways to paint and customize sneakers. After doing some renovations, he thought to himself, “Why not try selling new and painted shoes to make money?
Without any artistic experience or know-how, Recoon dove headfirst into YouTube, watching all the videos he could on the subject – the best paints and brushes, how to do intricate details, how to remove the finish from factory, everything. To experiment and practice, he bought the cheapest white shoes Nike sells and painted them over and over again.
Once he got his confidence, one of the first pairs he painted were seafoam green Nike Air Force 1s for his beloved fiancee. They looked great, he said, but the paint kept peeling.
“Now when I take them out to wear them he says, ‘No wait, let me touch them up first! ”, Said Livingston. “But I’m not a perfectionist, I still like to wear them no matter what they look like.”
Gradually, as he continued to paint, experiment, and show off pairs to his friends and family, people started to take an interest – interested enough that he launched his Instagram page to market them, which has over 1,000 subscribers.
But Recoon, who describes himself as a “con artist,” knew he could grow his business and contacted any famous sports figure he could, to see if they wanted their own pair of custom Charlotte kicks. at discounted price.
“It’s a fun, therapeutic hobby that keeps me sane and a little side activity to earn some extra cash,” Recoon said. “Just making all of these connections, though, I think that’s the main thing.”
One of those first connections was with Gary Striewski, who hosts ESPN’s “SportsCenter” on Snapchat. Striewski calls himself the “Kimchi Papi” due to his Korean heritage, so Recoon designed a pair of white Air Force 1s to bear his name.
“I painted the back seams and put his little slogan on the midsole,” Recoon said, “And then I just tried to draw, like, a fucking pot of kimchi.
“I was like ‘Dude, I don’t know what I’m doing.’ “
That he knew what he was doing didn’t seem to matter to Striewski, who loved kicks so much, he shared them on his Snapchat story, calling them the Kimchi Force 1. And that’s when – where things started.
Soon, Recoon was creating custom designs for personalities in the sports media world. From football journalists to daytime talk show hosts, ESPN figures like Field Yates, Laura Rutledge, Molly McGrath and many more have received a pair of custom Charlotte kicks. , which they each personally designed.
One of those personalities was Cealey Godwin of the New England Sports Network. Godwin, who had known Striewski from her time at NESN, followed Recoon’s tale after seeing the Kimchi Force 1. Soon, Recoon asked her if she would like her own pair. Godwin, a longtime “sneaker admirer”, wanted to design his own Air Force 1s for Pride Month.
“He sent me some ideas and we came up with the concept that we ultimately decided on, which was the rainbow drip,” Godwin said. “I was really happy with the way it came out, and I actually don’t wear them often because I want to make sure they aren’t scuffed.”
Recoon even got a pair at Wil Myers from the San Diego Padres thanks to a working connection he had.
While Recoon was able to find a market for his shoes – he designed 72 pairs of them – and said he won’t stop painting them anytime soon, he also understands that many people don’t understand why the sneakers and the sneaker culture – vintage t-shirts, sneakers and other rare collectibles are so popular and expensive.
Even he had lost touch with the culture before he started this commotion.
“I had vintage stuff before college, but I never really got it,” said Recoon, wearing high-top Hyper Royal Air Jordan 1s and a vintage Chicago Bulls tri-peat shirt. “Elon was more of a really preppy school, so boat shorts, Vineyard Vines and boat shoes.”
Now, with his side work in full swing, it’s safe to say that Recoon has re-embraced the culture and shared it with those around him. Even his fiancee, who admitted she didn’t know anything about sneakers, became fascinated by them, and she barely remembers a time before Recoon’s love for culture.
“He’s going to pick out his outfits now and figure out how it’s going to match his shoes,” Livingston said. “And it’s so funny to me, but I also like it. And he has a story behind each pair, which is my favorite part. There is a story behind each pair that you really can’t figure out just by looking at them.
Soon, however, there will be a few pairs that she will immediately know the story behind.
For the couple’s upcoming wedding in July, Recoon and Livingston will be wearing sneakers to the reception. But the piece de resistance? Recoon will be painting custom-made Air Force 1 pairs to match the lavender dresses of Livingston’s eight bridesmaids – a true labor of love.
“It’s going to be really cool,” Livingston said. “I hope we get some cool photos of me and the eight of them with their custom Jeremy lavender Nike swoosh.”
From bridesmaids and athletes to her own feet, each pair of Recoon paintings tells a different story. Whether it’s a celebrity who takes pleasure in putting on social media or a girl ordering sneakers with custom varsity designs for her father’s alma mater, be the artist behind the process. allows him to tell these stories.
“It’s this little gig that has become so much more than just a hobby,” said Livingston. “That’s what makes me happy is that his job isn’t his whole life, college isn’t his whole life. He’s got this whole other part of him that’s just as important as the other parts. “