In Marketplace

Why wear regular Jordans when you can wear "Pebble Jordans?"

In Marketplace

"Imaginary Friends" are some of Murphy's favorite custom kicks.

In Marketplace

Everyones favorite cookie eater makes a painted appearance.

Illwalkees shoes make your feet look fresh

Milwaukeean Rick Murphy's motto is: Why try to fit when you're a standout?

It's good advice for anyone looking to make a colorful splash in this world, which is exactly what he's trying to do.

Under the clever business name Illwalkees, he creates custom-designed sneakers that he hand paints according to his customers' desires. Basically, it's his job to make your feet look fresh.

Murphy can work with any leather shoe -- yes, ladies, he can paint your pumps if you want -- but synthetic materials won't hold the color, he says. His paint is weather resistant and will hold up to any amount of normal wear and tear.

"It's an art piece on your shoe, so you have to take care of it," he says. "But normal use won't destroy it."

So while you might not want to toss them in the washing machine, a gentle scrub will keep the attention at your feet.

He charges a flat rate of $100 for work and can get them done in about five hours. Other popular custom shoe companies like Pimp My Kicks, Punk My Chucks and Sole Brother charge anywhere from $120 to $700 for custom work.

He says his business's popularity is, in large part, thanks to celebrities who have custom-designed footwear -- if not an entire fashion line of their own.

"With hip-hop nowadays, it's all about fashion," he says. "Everyone has a perfume, clothing or shoe line, which has made sneaker culture more mainstream."

Punk My Chucks has done shoes for Miley Cyrus, Will Smith and Kelly Clarkson. Sole Brother takes it further by paying tribute to things like Earth Day or Canada Day (for real!).

Murphy will paint customer-submitted designs, freelance with his own ideas, or simply embellish on old-school color blocking. Either way, he's sure his shoes are like "nothing you'll ever find in the mall."

He also gives each pair its own custom name -- a cute collections of character sketches is called "Imaginary Friends;" a goofy likeness of Cookie Monster from "Sesame Street" is simply called "Cookies."

As an artist, Murphy also paints skateboard decks and does mural work. His goal, he says, is to create enough local buzz for his work to open a sneaker boutique.

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Talkbacks

ILLWALKEES | March 26, 2009 at 6:54 p.m. (report)

Thank you all for your comments and support it is really appreciated, because as ANN said im not some huge company just a one man show! ILLWALKEES custom sneakers "why try to fit in, when your a standout!"

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Annmarie | March 26, 2009 at 5:57 p.m. (report)

Those shoes look awesome, I love this. It's great that you are a local artist doing custom shoes, instead of a huge company!! You can't beat one of a kind items.

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JohnHenry | March 26, 2009 at 11:09 a.m. (report)

Good idea. Instead of throwing out the car because of rust, you give it a paint job.

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TRSM1465 | March 25, 2009 at 3:36 p.m. (report)

Illwaukee's rock! The shoes he creates are hot!

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canowhooparse | March 25, 2009 at 10:57 a.m. (report)

This is great for Miltown. To be unique these days means you end up looking like everyone else who bought their style in a mall or an urban outfitters. This brings back the vision of true style pioneers from the 80's to today who personalized everything in order to stand out & be noticed. Props to imagination & true originality - welcome back! Haters can continue to fill up their punch card at Hot Topic and just disappear in the masses of conformity.

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