Halloween provides plenty of thematic inspiration for sneaker colourways. Over the years, brands routinely have horrifying releases to mark the event – both proper scary executions and absolute horror shows. Despite the corporate enthusiasm to turn what seems like every single observance into a festive footwear drop, independent customisers and design houses are showing the big brands how it's done. Spookiness is the theme here: think ghosts, gore, and anything else your mother told you to shield your eyes from.
Reader beware – you're in for a scare!
A Wild Bat Boyz x Vandy – BAT SHOES
Vandy The Pink's work has become more ambitious and better executed over the years – and these winged BAT SHOES may be the most audacious yet. Using blank Air Force 1s as the base, cut and sewn leather wings can be attached to the eyestays by threading the shoelaces through them. Despite the announcement just days before Halloween 2019, pairs won't arrive until late November at the earliest. Oh well, spook over the summer or wait until Halloween 2020.
El Cappy - 'Air Freddys'
Freddy-themed customs are almost a dime a dozen, as the homicidal horror movie character was all but briefly sent to the dumpster via Dunks that were vetoed by New Line Cinema lawyers. Eric Lowry, better known by the alias El Cappy, has been in the game for a hot minute, evidenced by these Air Jordan 6 customs dating all the way back to 2012. Clean strokes, quality paint, and a literal killer sneaker.
SBTG - 'Studio Harvest'
No custom sneaker list is complete without an entry from SBTG, or Sabotage, also known by civilian name Mark Ong. The Singaporean artist made a name for himself in the early 2000s by displaying his work across various Internet sneaker forums. This Halloween, he gets a whole family spooky with matching skeletal Old Skools that include furry leopard-print Jazz stripes. While not the most visually visceral entry on this list, the scariest part is how good the SBTG team is at customs!
Kickstradomis - 'Pennywise PE'
Kickstradomis is the sneaker customiser to the NBA stars. During Halloween 2018, Minnesota Timberwolves player Karl-Anthony Towns rocked Pennywise-painted Nike Hyperdunk Xs, switching out for a Halloween custom pair for extra scare tactics on the court. At time of writing, Kickstradomis was yet to reveal 2019's scary sneaks – perhaps an OG It-themed baller with a very large portrait of Tim Curry's clown face could truly be the spookiest sneaker ever...
Mache - Beetlejuice Dunks
Take a moment to marvel at these Beetlejuice-themed Nike Dunks from the archives of OG customiser Mache. The expertly painted upper blends the Swoosh branding into the ghoulish backdrop, and Michael Keaton's Betelgeuse looks particularly weary. Swipe to the medial side, and things get really creepy: face-warping has never been detailed like this before – especially on a sneaker. Thankfully, these customs haven't been stolen by Winona Ryder.
Revive Customs - 'Bad BeAr'
Not strictly a sneaker inspired by horror movies, but this 'Bad BeAr' homage to hit TV show Breaking Bad is certainly creepy. Before Revive Customs dabbled in more fashion-oriented projects, Evan Macpherson was adding gory details to saccharine sweet sneakers. Using Jeremy Scott's adidas collaboration (as featured on one of the covers of Issue 19!) as a base, the teddy bear heads were singed and 'blinded' beyond Fred Hollows' help.
Diversitile - Child's Play
Customising sneakers may be fun, but it's definitely not simply... Child's Play. Defunct artist collective Diversitile really knocked this one out of the park back in the day. Just look at that stitched Chucky face on the tongues, complete with ragged hair! It's not just the custom fabrication that's impressive; the reconstructed upper of denim, leather and painted panels harks back to a time when a steady hand and real creativity set the experts apart from the amateurs.,
Gourmetkickz - I've Been Slimed Again
Glow-in-the-dark is an effect that's long been associated with horror-themed sneakers, and it's been applied with aplomb by mortgage-broker-turned-customiser Brian Spar. Better known as 'Chef', the head of Gourmetkickz capitalised on the mid-2010s Nike Air Foamposite craze with a limited run of Ghostbusters-inspired pairs, complete with oozing slime. Who you gonna call? Not 'Chef', because the oven has been turned off for a couple of years now.
Daniel Cordas - 'Joker' Air Jordan 1s
Another contemporary cinematic custom, Joaquin Phoenix's performance in Joker is more confronting than it is outright scary, but the costuming provides plenty of creative fodder. Daniel Cordas' carefully-stroked Air Jordan 1 doesn't have any bells or whistles – considering some customs will actually go that far to attach them – it simply uses stark photo-realism and a gaunt stare to instil fear. The longer the stare, the bigger the scare!
Honourable Mention – Maison Margiela Replica
Image credit: FranzMoz via Grailed
This isn't officially a custom, but it's one of the best in-house horror-themed sneakers from outside the Swoosh and Stripes. This obscure Maison Margiela GAT from 2008 has plenty of real estate across its toebox, so a menacing fanged skull appears on the left foot. As the GATs get scuffed up and wear, the skull gradually becomes more dilapidated and, in essence, dead. The graphic is already scary – just don't even think about resale prices. That's the real horror.