‘Just create’: The story behind Brad Duncan’s Custom kicks

'Just create': The story behind Brad Duncan's Custom kicks
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Brad Duncan parlayed a passion for shoes and telling stories and a satisfaction with spreading joy into a dream of making custom sneakers for some of LSU athletics’s biggest names.

His once simple hobby of customizing shoes for his close friends and family quickly turned into something much bigger than he could’ve ever anticipated, and it’s taken Duncan on what he can only describe as a, “once in a lifetime journey.”

It didn’t always start that way; Duncan described himself as a tunnel-visioned kid. Growing up in Baton Rouge, it was hard for him not to be thinking about sports.

“I was just so passionate about playing sports that, you’re not thinking long term, you know, you’re not thinking what am I going to do as an adult, and maybe art’s the calling that’s going to be the way I make a living,” Duncan said.

While Duncan always appreciated art, pursuing something in that landscape wasn’t really on his mind.

Duncan attended Northwestern State University in his home state of Louisiana to pursue a degree in business management, but he didn’t graduate.

It didn’t deter Duncan, though; he knew he was finally entering a new chapter in his story but felt very unfocused as a child.

“I wish I would’ve been a little bit more attentive in high school listening to guidance counselors and things like that but I wasn’t really one with a plan, I was just saying, ‘I’m gonna play sports for the rest of my life, and we’ll figure out the rest later,'” Duncan said.

Something that Duncan was always really focused on, even during his youth, was sneakers. Starting in junior high, his obsession began.

“The more unique and the less likely for you to grab a pair, like, that was the thing that intrigued me,” Duncan said.

He wasn’t just obsessed with sneakers; Duncan liked the unique ones that told their story and had a message behind them.

“I like to stand out, go against the grain, and be a little different,” Duncan said. “If you’re mass producing a million pairs and everybody and their mother has it, like that probably wasn’t the shoe that I was gonna go after.”

Duncan had one of his own when it came to having a story. He and his wife Paige were finally having a baby after battling through multiple miscarriages over the past two-and-a-half years. They were now dealing with an ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilized egg grows outside of the mother’s uterus. But somehow, against all odds, their son Rhodes Bradley was born.

“I was thinking around that unique thing that I love, and I said, ‘You know what, I wanna give my wife a unique gift for the newborn baby,” Duncan said.

Duncan’s social media was flooded with sneaker content, from reviewers to resellers to collectors. But there was one thing he kept seeing that he couldn’t get enough of: customizers.

“You get into this rabbit hole with the internet, you could pretty much find absolutely anything,” Duncan said.

Once Duncan fell into it, there was no coming back.

Duncan fully believes that you can learn anything you want on the internet and that how-to videos are on the Internet with the intent of teaching the world. They taught Duncan everything he needed to know, from how to prep a shoe before customizing it to what supplies he needed and where to get them. Duncan realized he could get started for less than $100 and didn’t hesitate. Duncan began playing around with a simple Triple White Air Force 1; the rest is history.

“The birth of my son kinda re-sparked that interest and intrigue into getting back into the arts world,” Duncan said.

Through some well-connected friends, neighbors and Baton Rouge figures, Duncan’s hobby suddenly became much more significant than he could’ve ever anticipated. Duncan was already working a regular nine-to-five job while getting massive bulk orders from local businesses and companies requesting custom pairs for their employees and staff members.

It wasn’t something Duncan could face all alone. While his wife Paige was his biggest supporter and always there for him, Duncan realized he also had other responsibilities, and he’s stopped taking deadline-focused orders to spend more time as a husband and father.

The change took the pressure off of Duncan and allowed him to focus on quality over quantity, as the best had yet to come. Through his connections, Duncan has supplied a pair of custom kicks to Angel Reese and had his design selected by Joe Burrow for the NFL’s annual My Cause My Cleats initiative.

One partnership that stood out to him was with LSU football head coach Brian Kelly. Throughout this past football season, Duncan designed multiple pairs of custom sneakers for Kelly to don during the team’s famous Tiger Walk before every home game on Saturdays, with the shoes eventually being auctioned off for charity afterward.

READ MORE: LSU kinesiology professor leads effort to combat childhood obesity in Louisiana 

Following the season, Duncan finally got to meet and talk to Kelly for the first time, following all the work he did for him the previous fall. Kelly expressed the gratitude he had for Duncan and his craft.

“To hear him speak about how he enjoyed them was kind of a cool moment for me,” Duncan said.

Regarding Baton Rouge’s finest, Duncan has taken every interaction to heart.

“I haven’t met a bad one, they’ve all been super nice,” Duncan said. “They’re all tremendous people.”

Duncan may have to create tens and tens of pairs of individually customized Air Force 1s and Air Jordan 1 Lows when fulfilling bulk orders.

It takes him 15-30 hours to complete one pair, but sometimes, starting and finding inspiration for a single pair can be difficult. Duncan finds the process very fulfilling, almost therapeutic. He always tries to ask his clients what they’re looking for and what they’ll wear.

“I don’t show people their design until they open it up right in-front of them because to me, I love that moment,” Duncan said.

While he eats a lot of costs, Duncan feels it’s worth the small investment if it means leaving his customers speechless when they open that box.

“It’s not about a pure profit for me as much as it is the enjoyment,” Duncan said. “I keep telling people my message is that I’m trying to help you build your brand through my works of art. I want to give you a unique way to express your brand that’s outside the norm. It’s a walking billboard, so use it accordingly.”

So, how did Brad Duncan do all of this? What’s the mindset of someone going after a dream that seems so far-fetched?

“Don’t worry about the end result, just enjoy the journey and begin,” Duncan said. “As long as you’re doing it a little bit at a time each day, eventually it’ll just start to click. Just create.”

READ MORE: LSU Red Cross club installs over 180 smoke alarms in Baton Rouge to prevent fire injuries and fatalities 

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About Marc Lemoine 1470 Articles
Marc is an Economist and a well experienced weightlifter who has won many championships. He intends to build a bright career in the media industry as well. He is a sports freak who loves to cover the latest news on sports, finance and economy.

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