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Creating Custom Kicks:
Shoe Artist Cashes in
on the Sneaker Culture

story by Cody Moore, Photography by Melissa Donner

What started as a creative outlet for Jonesboro resident Jerrod Brown quickly turned into a successful side hustle. DropKicks Custom, Brown’s art business, focuses on creating unique custom shoe art, canvas art and much more.

Brown, a Forrest City native, moved to Jonesboro with his wife, Shandria, in 2016; he began working at Nestle, where he currently works as a full-time operator.

Though art isn’t Brown’s full-time occupation, he has had a passion for the arts, as well as shoe design, for as long as he can remember.

“When I was in grade school, I traced over sneakers in magazines and redesigned them,” said Brown. “My classmates would talk about how much cooler my redesign looked than the actual shoe.

“Years later, before I knew about any special custom shoe paint, I used some sharpies to doodle up a design on a pair of my old school shoes. I wore them to school, and people seemed to like them.”

During his freshman year of high school, Brown recalls his art teacher noticing his talents, encouraging him to start taking the profession more seriously.

“My art teacher at the time, Don Williams, saw something in my art and started to challenge my craft,” said Brown. “Because of that, I went on to my first Arkansas Young Artist Association (AYAA) convention and ended up winning my first medal in the Expressive Pencil and Graphite category.”

After an uplifting conversation with his father about his newfound passion of shoe art, Brown decided to start his own business. DropKicks Custom was officially introduced in spring of 2015, and the rest is history.

“At first, I went by the name J-Splash Customs, and it wasn’t really ringing a bell,” said Brown. “So, I was at work one day thinking, ‘How do we use our feet in a creative way that makes an impact?’

“First, I thought of karate, and from there I started thinking of all the different kicks and moves – flying kick, judo kick and then I said ‘drop kick.’ That same feeling I had when I came up with the whole idea of customizing shoes came over me. I knew instantly that it was DropKicks Customs.”

Brown, who is inspired by artists such as King Saladeen, a Pennsylvania-based artist, and Francoise Nielly, a French artist, describes his personal art as bold, expressive and heartfelt. Though he also does an array of works on canvas using acrylics, Brown is mostly known locally for his highly detailed and unique shoe art.

“My custom sneakers are commission only and are a great gift for any occasion,” said Brown. “DropKicks Custom offers a broad range of customs, from wedding gifts to a sports fan collectible.”

“Also, all my custom sneakers are one-of-a-kind, which means if I have three different commissions for a (Dallas) Cowboys theme, they will all have a unique and different design from one another. I do not duplicate any of my previous designs, nor do I replicate any other customizers’ designs.”

Out of all of his art creations, Brown has the most pride in his shoe designs, especially when the customer gives him complete creative control.

“My favorite type of commission are freestyles, especially the ones that involve characters and portraits,” said Brown. “The customer tells me the theme they desire and lets me take full control of the layout and design.”

Whether Brown is asked to do a specific color theme, beach theme, floral theme or even a particular character-themed design on a shoe, he always makes sure it lives up to his distinctive brand.

“I want to present my art in way that would instantly grab your attention,” said Brown. “Because people are so used to seeing the same colorways and designs that can be bought from any store, a custom pair of everyday Nike Air Force 1s are going to grab your attention quick, then curiosity sets in and holds the viewer’s attention even longer. Personally, I would have to say my Toy Story-themed Air Force 1s have been a favorite of mine to create.”

When it comes to the shoes’ design, pairs can take anywhere from one night to a few months to complete. After receiving the shoes, Brown always gives his customers a wait time of two weeks to one month to make sure the shoe is exactly what the customer desires.

In addition to his shoe designs, Brown has also recently dabbled in commission canvas art, as well as larger scale projects. One of his more recent larger projects, a mural on the Art House Selfie Wall located in Downtown Jonesboro, was completed in August 2020.

“This was, by far, my biggest project in size,” said Brown. “I knew it would come with its challenges, being the first time working on a scale this size and handling spray paint.”

When asked to create an interactive mural for the wall, Brown spent time thinking what would be well-received by Northeast Arkansas residents and downtown visitors while still remaining true to his brand.

“When I was told the theme of the mural was for it to be interactive, I was a bit puzzled on what to come up with,” said Brown. “I love to fish, so I knew right off that it would have something to do with fish. I thought of goldfish because there’s so many different species of goldfish and they come in an endless range of shapes and colors.

“Plus, the way they look back at you in the fish tank is priceless. I really enjoyed the opportunity of painting the mural. It opened up another avenue of art clients for me.”

As far as the success of his side hustle goes, Brown credits his avid social media presence for the audience he has gained throughout the years.

Social media plays a big part in marketing and promoting my work,” he said. “You can create mind-blowing art, but if no one ever sees it, how can you sell it or who would know about you?”

When it comes to the future of DropKicks Custom, Brown hopes to work alongside and collaborate with big name companies, athletes and celebrities in order to further elevate his craft and eventually pursue the arts full time.

To have a pair of shoes or clothing customized or to order a piece of custom art, send a direct message to Brown’s Instagram or Facebook pages. To keep up with Brown and his latest creations or for more information, find DropKicks Custom on Instagram or Facebook @DropKicksCustom.