Ahhh coffee, the natural enemy of white sneakers everywhere. Just ask your local hypebarista who foolishly decided to pull a shift in their all-white Air Force 1s. The name of the very site you are currently reading is a neologism for the “coffee crumbs, blotches, and splats present on a barista’s clothing and shoes after a long shift on bar.” Dirtying up your kicks is part and parcel with being really into coffee.
But like the two enemies in a movie that have to come together to take on some larger big bad, coffee and white shoes have formed an uneasy partnership to defeat the greatest evil of them all: not having stylishly customized coffee sneakers.
As reported by Gear Patrol, coffee it turns out is quite the fetching dying agent that can set your shoes apart. Coffee-dyed shoes isn’t exactly a new technique; Portland’s coffee-shoe mecca Deadstock Coffee has been known in the past to put on events where they would do this very thing. But thanks to the help of the internet, now you can do it yourself!
And it’s pretty easy to do. To get the skinny on the process, they followed the fairly simple instructions of Jake Polino, a very Boston sneaker customizer and co-founder of Kizo Kicks. Polino has nearly three million followers across his Instragram, TikTok, and YouTube channels where he shows off some of his custom works as well as how he made them. And his coffee sneaker how-tos are very popular.
Per Gear Patrol, Polino has made 12 videos on how to make coffee sneakers that have received over 200 million views. “I made one Air Force with coffee, it gets 30 million views and now everybody and their mother wants a pair of coffee Air Forces. I’ve done these too many times… I haven’t been anything I want to do,” Polino states in one of his videos.
So don’t go hitting up Polino to make you a pair, especially when he has already given you step-by-step instructions on how to. First you need to remove the laces. Then, per Polino, you need to apply an even coat of acetone to the entire shoe, leather and rubber included. Acetone is the compound in nail polish and it’ll help prep the surface to soak in the coffee color. But be careful; wear gloves and use it near an open window for better ventilation. Then you need to make your coffee slurry. For this, Polino mixes 30 ounces of Cafe Bustelo coffee with boiling water in a tub large enough to completely submerge the sneakers. Then just toss in the shoes you want to dye and make sure they are completely covered by the slurry, using a brick or some such weight to keep them fully submerged. Let them sit for 2 hours and rinse them off in the sink. Let air dry and relace.
The result is a cream-colored sneaker, a hue I’d call “iced latte.” An added perk, per Polino, is that they’ll smell like coffee forever. And while Polino uses Cafe Bustelo, any specialty coffee you have lying around would work as well.
So while I will never be cool enough to get to stompin’ in a pair of Air Force Ones, I can’t help but wonder how my all-white Chuck Taylors would fare with a little coffee facelift. Their canvas as opposed to leather and they aren’t exactly all that white anymore either, but who knows, maybe they are due a creamy post-Labor Day upgrade.
Zac Cadwalader is the managing editor at Sprudge Media Network and a staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.