Photo by Luigi Ciuffetelli
Eric Dorsey never considered himself artistic. But one day last year he was inspired to paint designs on a pair of cleats after he saw a couple pros wearing them. He used connections he made coaching arena football teams to convince a few professional players to let him decorate their cleats. Dorsey’s fledgling business—Illustrative Cre8ions—exploded. Now the New Castle resident is airbrushing cleats for Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs and many other college and pro players.
DT: How did you get into painting cleats?
ED: I was watching a football game and something popped up about Marshawn Lynch and his all-gold cleats. And I saw DeSean Jackson had a pair of customs that said, “I can’t breathe” on them to honor Eric Garner. After seeing them, I thought, I wonder how they did that? So I tried it. I reached out to [cornerback] Bashaud Breeland of the Redskins. He wore them and the rest is history.
DT: It’s been about a year. How’s the business now?
ED: I have athletes in all sports. I have track and field, a couple of Olympic athletes, Major League Baseball, college, local high schools, lacrosse and local youth leagues.
DT: Who is the most high-profile athlete that has worn your cleats?
ED: That’s tough. It all depends how well you know sports. Stan Shields from the Green Bay Packers. There are so many. Pot Roast [Terrance Knighton of the New England Patriots]. Marquise Goodwin of the Bills, who is also an Olympic long-jumper.
DT: How many pairs have you painted?
ED: Probably over 100 now. I did some for Arena League Football players like Donovan Morgan of the Los Angeles KISS. I collaborated with a friend to do a tie-in with the KISS [owned by some members of the famous rock band]. One cleat had Gene Simmons’ face on it with his tongue out. The other one had Paul Stanley all over it. I flew to L.A. and got a chance to hang out with Gene and Paul.
DT: How much do you charge?
ED: It varies. They supply the shoe. I supply the work. Youth athletes are $75. High school is $125, college $175. Then once you get to the pros, $200 and up. That’s for simple stuff. But drawing whatever it is they love in life, that’s more detail and more time involved. Like I tell them, it’s a work of art.
DT: Who would you most like to wear your cleats?
ED: Anyone on my beloved Eagles, but for some reason they’re not interested. There are a couple guys, like Dez Bryant. There are players that I follow like Jalen Ramsey or Ezekiel Elliott—some of the younger guys.
DT: How do you come up with the concept?
ED: The athletes give me little to no information about what they want. Bashaud was just like, “Do your thing.” They allow me to be creative, hence the name Illustrative Cre8ions. You cannot purchase these in a store. These are something I’m making on my own.