Cassius Hirst & the Endless Possibilities of Sneaker Customization

I recently spoke with Cassius Hirst, a UK based sneaker customizer about his work, inspiration, and some of his favorite sneakers. Accompanying this interview is a set of photos shot of Cassius in his studio by @thedarkroomdon.

What motivates and inspires you to create your custom work?

I’m normally inspired by the process itself, I find painting the shoes super fun and the whole process has so many variables, plus, the final product is extremely satisfying. I also just find it super inspiring to share my work with people and hear their opinions on it - normally people have good things to say but even when they don’t it still pushes me forward in a productive way. 

Where do you source inspiration for your custom designs? Are there any artists and designers that have had a profound impact on your work?

I could list some artists that I like the work of but honestly, there aren’t many that have hit me that hard, Malevich’s black square painting is pretty inspiring from a conceptual point of view. I’ve loved the world of graffiti for years and have definitely been inspired by that since my childhood, I also saw Slipknot play live for the first time recently and they’ve inspired me heavily since I was like 8, no one expresses passion like they do. To be honest I don’t search for inspiration often but I get a lot of the visual inspiration from nature. I love how everything always seems to visually link back to the natural world. 

Your designs clearly follow your aesthetic eye and creative intentions as opposed to being fueled by commercial interests. What are your thoughts on staying true to your artistry and producing work that is fueled by your own self?

I strongly believe in fuelling your own work and doing what you want to do for yourself, although the audience does sometimes have to be considered too. I’ve always thought that within the world of ‘customs’ there’s a little too much branding, logos, repurposing of other people’s work and a lack of genuinely creative visual content. Working with a shoe as a canvas gives you endless possibilities - I’ve always loved spray paint and being able to put them both together has taught me a lot and opened a lot of doors in my mind, in terms of staying true to what you do I think people should pour themselves into what they do and not question why they do it. If you’re having fun then that’s all that matters. 

The classic AF1 seems to be your shoe of choice when it comes to customization. Why is this?

The airforce one is an iconic shoe and everything from the crisp vertical sole to the slightly textured leather makes it perfect to paint. I’ve tried out 90’s and 95s but they can be seriously difficult to mask. Air forces have such a perfect sturdiness to their leather and the way they weather is much more predictable. They’re also one of my favourite shoes to wear, they’re so comfortable and everyone seems to love them. 

Do you foresee yourself making custom designs on any other silhouettes in the near future?

I plan on sticking with air forces when it comes to general painting and posting to Instagram but I’d love to apply what I do to other shoes in the future. I could try painting on all sorts of shoes but I like the journey of techniques the Air Force has led me on so far.

In terms of sneakers, what are some of your favorite silhouettes/designs?

There aren’t that many designs that have blown me away but I love the Mars Yard 2.0s and the Margiela Fusions, Prada have some crazy designs too - super modern stuff that’s amazingly crafted.

Moving forward, where are you looking to take your customization work? Do you have any defined goals regarding your work?

I like the idea of collaboration and being able to apply what I’ve found through the Air Force to other subjects and situations, not necessarily just another model of shoe. I don’t have any clear goals really apart from a couple people I’d love to see in my shoes, I normally just like to see where things take me. If I’m just creating my own stuff every day I’m sure things will come my way. Patience is key.

Check out Cass's work:

Instagram: @cass.f1

Damian M.

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