Tips on personal brand as it pertains to painting your shoes

I was going to write a long post about personal brand, and how I don’t really believe in it as a phrase. I believe in protecting your good name, and standing for something, but I personally am not a product, I personally can’t be bought (only rented) and it was going to be this long diatribe.

Then, as happens in Seattle sometimes, it got sunny and like any other Seattleite, serious thoughts fled my brain and I only wanted to be outside. It was then that I decided to paint more shoes, and from this exercise you can probably learn more about ‘personal brand’ than if I went on a long rant.


First off, I have been dying to paint some shoes ever since Howard Rheingold declined to paint some for me, but instead opted to teach me to paint my own.  (He is such a wise sensei of the internet – only when I realized what it meant to paint shoes did I realize why he would not paint shoes for me). I also hadn’t realized this shoe-painting movement or frame of mind, is a pet thing of his and he has been part of the paint-your-shoes movement for quite some time.

Howard’s amazing how-to (which talks about the philosophy too) can be found here:

The other resource I’ve been reading is the guide to customizing your sneakers by Sabotage in this forum post (there is apparently a book called Sneaker Freaker that really tells all):

Unlike Howard, I don’t trust myself as a visual artist, so the first shoes I tried to paint were some secondhand ones purchased at a thrift store – the loafers you see above. I was overly optimistic – when I read the part about sanding and acetone, I thought – but maybe MY shoes are worn down enough – they seem worn down enough. Ooh lookit the pretty colors!


WRONG! You can see in this photo that the paint is starting to crack on them. I can still wear them places but they won’t last long.

Personal brand tip # 1 – Believe what sage experts who have done this before tell you, even if it means more work you hate. It'll last longer. :)

Personal brand tip # 2: Think about the underlying materials you are working with – old leather shoes have chemicals on them to repel things like paint. You can’t get around the intrinsic nature of what you are working with. In social media, that’s the tools or the tech or the industry OR EVEN YOUR OWN PERSONALITY :) . When you make a name for yourself don’t ignore underlying material.

So this time, I bought 2 sizes of shoes that don’t fit me – so I wouldn’t be as tempted to cut corners or have personal angst if they flaked out as well – and proceeded to follow Howard’s advice more closely.

This time, I skipped the acetone treatment bc he said the sanding is more important – if you listen to Sabotage though, acetone is the way to go.

Once I had sanded to raise a “tooth” I painted white dots. You can't really see the tooth here bc of the distance but the shoes looked suede-like.



And then after that dried, I went for the color.

Personal brand tip #3 that would apply here is: Do not be boring. Black and white works for some people, but in my case, if I was going to go to the trouble of artsy shoes I wanted them to 1) not necessarily match 2) be COLORFUL. You want people to remember who you are right? At least let them remember you on a day when you were "on" and not say, when you wake up in the morning.



I did all this outside. It’s a good idea to paint and to sand and to (next step) spray the clear coat on outside because of the mess/fumes. This is the picture of the shoes drying from the clear coat. I have about 3-4 coats total before I can see if these will flake like the originals.

Personal brand tip #4: If there’s a lot of makeover in your brand, do it  in a well-ventilated place. :) (There’s a lot of bad jokes to make here, suffice to let you do it on your own!)


My next step  after these shoes dry enough from their clear coat, is to get some friends to “test drive” the shoes and give feedback. 

Personal brand tip #5: Try out your social media experiment/identity first with a few people (friendly or at least not haters) to make sure you are on the right track. If my friends find that the 2nd wave of shoes flake like mine do, then I know I need to go the Way of the Acetone. Since I’m recycling these shoes into ‘new shoes’ from Goodwill, I don’t mind taking the time to figure it out.

Bonus tip: Why not test out your personal brand on free services before you start playing in the paid (advertising) or other market? Don’t be afraid to be wrong or innovate.

....I'll let you know how they progress. Thanks again Howard!