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The Minnesota Daily

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A shoe-in for fashion

Local sneaker designer turns regular Air Jordans into works of art for celebrities and shoe lovers

When Jon Goodman stumbled upon an online how-to-custom-paint-your-shoes site as a high school sophomore, he saw it as an opportunity to make his own sneakers stand out from the crowd.

Less than five years later, Goodman is an up-and-comer in the shoe customization industry. His client list includes big hip-hop names like Jay-Z, Cam’Ron, Paul Wall and Memphis Bleek. The list also includes athletes like Michael Bennett of the Vikings and Kristen Mann of the Lynx.

After putting a 50 percent down payment on the shoes, each client works directly with Goodman to hammer out the design until he gets it exactly right.

Cam’Ron got horizontal stripes in almost-black purple, royal purple, gray and white, with a heel that fades from the deep purple to the brighter shade. The pair even had a custom made tongue label that said the company, “is not responsible for any broken necks. Dipset, all day.”

Memphis Bleek’s pair also had horizontal strips, this time in red, black, gray and white. The kicks matched a shirt the rapper wore when he received his custom sneakers.

Goodman likes the stripes, which appear on six of his more recent designs. However, he also makes pairs ranging from solid browns and tans to very graphic and pixilated designs in hot pink, black and gray.

Although celebrities are rocking his art, Goodman insists that he is not letting his company’s success go to his head.

“I’m kind of surprised at what I’ve been able to do,” Goodman said.

The St. John’s sophomore said he is taking things one day at a time. He’s not even sure he wants to do shoe customization for a career, he said.

That day-by-day mentality got Goodman to where he is now, he said. After receiving some positive comments about the first pair of shoes he customized, where he basically only painted the Nike Swoosh red, Goodman decided to form JGoods Customs and launch a Web site that received almost 55,000 hits last year.

Boutiques in New York, Los Angeles, Japan and Minneapolis have all carried JGoods shoes. The local store, Status, has a couple of Goodman’s designs.

It’s hard for Goodman to work with stores, he said, because he doesn’t have the time or taste for mass producing his designs.

“They take me so long to do and it’s so time consuming that I only like doing one or a couple of each style,” Goodman said.

Each pair of JGoods is made by hand from high-quality leather paints that Goodman guarantees will not crack or fade. He mostly works with Nikes, usually Air Force Ones or Dunks, because the brand is Goodman’s personal favorite and is popular.

The unique, high quality of the shoes equals an average price of about $600, Goodman said.

“I feel like, if I weren’t working with Air Force Ones and Dunks, I wouldn’t be able to charge what I charge,” he said.

Although Goodman’s celebrity clients could easily pay this fee, he said he usually makes them the first pair for free.

“Some celebrities kind of think its part of the deal that they get a lot of free stuff,” he said. “But it’s good for you because they’re wearing your stuff.”

Maybe that is why Goodman jumped at the opportunity to design a pair of Air Force Ones for Jay-Z. The design, which consists of blue vertical stripes wrapping around the shoe and fading to the bottom, was inspired by Jay-Z’s Water for Life world tour.

Goodman said he was contacted by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons about designing the kicks and was told he had two days to finish the shoes before Jay-Z left for the tour.

Although he didn’t get much sleep, he did get the shoes done in time. He said he thinks the pair was auctioned off for charity, but never really heard what their fate was.

“I still look on MTV to see if he’s ever wearing them,” Goodman said.

He does have proof that his other celebrity clients are wearing the shoes, either from face-to-face meetings, photos or celebrity entourages ordering their own pair.

Although Goodman could never have predicted his success, he said entrepreneurship came naturally.

He had help along the way from his father, who owns an independent bookstore in Goodman’s hometown of Stillwater.

Goodman also got a helping hand from his brothers. His younger brother works on the company Web site, while his older brother collaborated on Goodman’s newest adventure into the world of design, Uncommon Clothing.

The line of T-shirts was inspired by movies and other everyday figures, Goodman said.

“We don’t really have a message,” he said. “A lot of clothing lines do and that’s fine. But it’s just about fun for us.”

His father, the family’s original business man, helped Goodman create shoe customization kits. These kits, sold on the Web site, include everything Goodman uses to prepare, paint and seal shoes.

“I feel that the custom kit takes originality to a new level for anybody,” he said.

Although he got his start in the business through someone else’s Web site, Goodman said he isn’t worried about being shown up by one of his kit customers.

“I’m confident enough that maybe somebody could make a better shoe than me, but I’ll still say mine was better.”

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