sneaker heads

Meet the talented Houstonian making moves with his custom sneakers for music and sports stars

Talented Houstonian makes moves with his custom sneakers for the stars

Lil' Flip Bun B John Papasideris
Papasideris poses with hip-hop legend Bun B and Lil' Flip. Photo courtesy of John Papasideris

For Houston sneakerheads, July will be a great month.

This Saturday, vintage store RAXX will be holding a Sneaker and Vintage Night Fest over at 8th Wonder Brewery. And designer footwear shop Sneaker Summit will have its annual H-Town Sneaker Summit at NRG Center on Sunday, July 31.

Good timing for sneaker designer John Papasideris, who is ready to design glorious, swagalicious kicks for those who are willing to fork over the dough. He's also created kicks for Houston hip-hop legend Bun B, plus stars like Lil' Flip and the enigmatic former NFL wide receiver Antonio Brown.

Papasideris is the owner of JPOPS Customs, a company that specializes in customizing athletic footwear. Believe it or not, this is something the high-school, science/English teacher and basketball coach for Spring Branch ISD has been doing for only a year and some change — and he has the Coronavirus to thank for that.

"I had some time on my hands with the school kind of bring virtual and things like that," Papasideris tells CultureMap. "I've always kind of been into sneakers myself. So, you know, I kind of went through a YouTube wormhole and just typed in how to customize shoes, and one thing led to another." 

Born and raised in Houston, Papasideris got the itch to start his sneaker-design business when he styled a pair for his niece. "I had her pick the colors, and she was turning three," he says. This eventually led to pals requesting some spruced-up sneaks for their youngins. "It was kind of a test run, and she was kind of my guinea pig for it. I enjoyed it, and I started kind of picking other artists' brains about their techniques and the materials that they use and it kind of just flew off from there."

It wasn't until Papasideris designed shoes for some local, hip-hop legends that things began to blowuptuate. "I just reached out to some of the rappers that I grew up with and listened to," he says. He took a chance and hit up Lil' Flip on Instagram, who was quite ready to go to work. "We collabbed on two or three pairs," he says. They worked on Nike Air Force 1s featuring designs from the shows Breaking Bad and Squid Game. When Flip showed them off on social media, Papasideris says his followers "grew by, like, a hundred percent."

They also worked on a special pair for Bun B's Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo concert, which took place earlier this year. Along with making pairs for Flip and fellow rapper Z-Ro, he also gave a pair to the star of the show. "I got to meet Bun B for a couple minutes," he remembers. "They were kind of in the middle of their soundcheck for that big show and, you know, he had a lot on his plate. So, luckily, he was gracious enough. I went into the studio and presented him with the shoes and shook his hand and told him that I really appreciated what he does for the city."

He also created a pair of Nike cleats for Antonio Brown, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer who left the team in a very memorable fashion. Papasideris designed the shoe when he was in town, playing the Texans. "I saw it on my buddy's Instagram," he says. " I was like, well, it happened once before with Lil' Flip. So, why don't I just reach out to Antonio Brown?... He reached out back and I made him a custom pair of cleats, and he really appreciated it."

For people looking for get customized shoes from Papasideris, contact him through his website. If you like to see his work up-close before you do, some shoes he designed are on display over at the Houston High Society smoke shop, over on Bagby. And even though Papasideris won't be at those aforementioned events, he says he is planning to get on top of it for next year's sneaker-related events. "For me," he says, "I don't really have a huge, I guess, selection of shoes that I can just pull -- like, you know, your Foot Lockers. They have huge inventories and, like, I don't. So, it's kind of on a person-to-person basis.

"But Sneaker Summit is something that I'm going to try and work towards — the next Sneaker Summit, that is — and just kind of get a good inventory and a wide range of shoe designs," he continues. "That way, when it does come to that, I'll have product to showcase and the patrons can kind of touch them and see the work that comes into it. Hopefully, it'll generate some new clients and some new interest and just kind of go from there."