Kenny Jones was driving back from New York when his stepmother called, saying a package arrived with his name on it. It was his birthday. His wife looked at him and said his shoes came in the mail.
Jones designed a Virginia Beach-inspired Nike SB Dunk, which won an Instagram contest in March. The sneaker he originally drew on an 8.5-by-11-inch piece of paper went through a five-month development process and showed up on his doorstep Aug. 28.
He never thought he would have the chance to design his own custom shoe until he came across the contest hosted by two Instagram accounts, Reverse Land and Nike SB or Nothing. His shoe sold out in less than 15 minutes on Saturday to a “very limited amount” of people, according to Ian Huang, who oversaw the shoe’s development.
People who pre-ordered the Dunks can expect their pair to be shipped in the next two to five months, Huang said in an email.
When he announced that the shoe would cost around $900, Jones said he was worried about whether people would buy it. The Virginia Beach native, who lives in Chesapeake, knew how expensive custom sneakers typically run and he prepared himself for negative comments.
Some people who initially supported his design suddenly downplayed and made fun of the sneaker on social media. Backlash directed toward Jones insinuated that he had a say in the price, which he said he didn’t.
“Our team doesn’t get paid working on this project,” Huang said. “On top of that we’ll be losing money working on sizes US 11.5 and above, due to the cost of (the) base shoe.”
Huang’s team had to find and order authentic Nike SB Dunks, detach the sole, reconstruct the sneaker’s upper body and customize its insoles. On average, depending on the price of the base shoe, it cost about $750 to customize each pair.
In a perfect world, Jones said he would’ve liked to partner with Nike to manufacture a sneaker at a more affordable price. But he’s thankful for the opportunity to design a sneaker, no matter how he came across it.
Any doubts the 29-year-old had dissolved when Pusha T, a musician and Virginia Beach native, commented on Jones’ Instagram post saying he wanted to buy two pairs. It was a full-circle moment since the design was inspired by local “music legends” including Pharrell, Timbaland and Missy Elliot.
Victor Cruz, Jones’ favorite football player, also ordered a pair for himself. The former NFL wide receiver was a celebrity judge during the contest’s third round — he voted for Jones’ shoe out of the final five designs.
“I’m just a guy in the Coast Guard who always dreamed to have my own shoe,” Jones said.
Jones said he feels like he’s still dreaming when he sees his nickname on the Dunks’ tongue. Sometimes when his wife, Adriana, and 4-year-old son go upstairs before the night is over, Jones will sit at their kitchen table and stare at the embroidered waves in awe.
He has yet to wear his sneaker out in public because the blue colorway is bound to catch someone’s attention. Jones said he’ll probably break them in during a subtle date night with his wife, where they’ll catch the least amount of eyes.
So, where will Jones go from here?
Jones said he began designing fitted hats and graphic T-shirts to keep his options open outside of sneakers. He’s working on the logistics to avoid any potential legal issues when it comes to designs and fashion, but he hopes it’s something he can pursue full-time in the future.
Sierra Jenkins, 229-462-8896, email@example.com