A player’s uniform is like his shield of armor, not just because it keeps him protected, but because it adds to the game day bravado. For the past few seasons, players across the league have been adding their own personality to their game day swag through custom cleats. Marcus Rivero is the man behind the shoes. His Soles by Sir Designs out of Miami, FL are taking the NFL by storm, and it all started with an infamous pair.
“The first pair that actually put me on the map was Marshawn Lynch’s,” Rivero said. “A couple years ago I did a pair for him for the NFC championship game, and it was Marshawn being Marshawn. He wanted them to be all gold. We put 24 karat gold flakes in his shoes.”
The NFL did not allow Lynch to wear the cleats for that game, but the word spread fast and everyone wanted a pair of their own. Rivero says he’s customizing cleats for nearly 500 players across the league, and the San Diego Chargers are no exception.
I recognized Rivero’s work on Chargers safety Jahleel Addae during training camp. Like most of his clients, Addae came through a personal referral.
“It started with Melvin Ingram. He was probably the first Chargers I did work for,” Rivero said of his Bolts connection. “Then Addae saw the work and next thing you know, calls me and says ‘Hey I’ve been following you on Instagram', and that’s it, he was hooked.”
We asked Addae about his custom cleat collection and he said he wears Rivero’s designs for every game and practice. The safety said he has nearly a dozen pairs on reserve so he never runs out.
The players are very particular and creative when it comes to what they want on their cleats. Rivero’s challenge is to stick to the strict NFL guidelines, while keeping his clients happy and fine-free.
“It’s very tricky. Each team, which to me is crazy, has their own set of rules with the NFL,” Rivero said. “For example, the Chargers: none of their cleats can ever have more than three colors on it. So when I do Addae’s cleats, there’s always one color missing.”
The young entrepreneur’s designs have crossed over from the grid iron to the diamond, even making an appearance at Petco Park for the MLB All-Star Game.
“Baseball really took off this year. I felt like it was my first season all over again,” Rivero said. “Now that I’m wrapping up the season I probably have about 80 guys in the major leagues.”
That includes Padres outfielder Jon Jay who attended the same high school as Rivero in Miami.
Rivero is becoming the go-to guy for custom cleats. He says the connection he makes with each player goes beyond the shoes. These relationships are the main reason he says he’s never had to advertise; and hopes he never has to. Rivero says he is proud of the personal attention he puts into each creation.
“It’s one of those things where as long as you do good work for somebody, they have no problem promoting you and talking about you, like Addae. He’ll walk into the locker room, like when he got his package last week and he’s shooting me pictures of him holding them like a little kid. Teammates see it and take notice and start reaching out. It’s kind of how the word spread.”
The young cleat artist is hoping his winning record will continue to add to his success.
“Listen, I’m three and zero. I’ve had a guy in every Super Bowl for the past three years win a ring and I’m very proud of that," he said. "If you’re asking me, the only reason people score touchdowns, or sacks, or interceptions is because they’re wearing custom cleats. So I’m a little biased when it comes to that."
The Chargers host the San Francisco 49ers in their last preseason game of 2016 this Thursday. While most of us will be focused on the ball, Rivero will be following the cleats.