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We’re hitting the road for an 8-stop customization tour across America, with a lineup of eight artists coming from a variety of backgrounds. Their mission: to create one-of-a-kind boots and shoes for Dr. Martens customers.

The Dr. Martens Customization Tour kicked off with a party in NYC followed by the first official tour stop at Dr. Martens Herald Square. This time, we enlisted the help of Chris Uphues, a Chicago-born, New York-based artist and designer best known for his signature hearts that can be found in murals — or wheat-pasted —throughout the streets of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Chris was busy all night painting customers’ shoes and boots with hearts, bananas, lightning bolts, and more. Read on to learn more about the artist and see some of the work he created for us.

How did your signature hearts come to be?

The hearts started almost as a joke. In the late 1990’s I had a bunch of friends who were involved in making street art and most of the imagery was super aggressive, gory, violent, and macho. I thought that was sort of lame and it would be interesting to try to focus on the softest image I could. After some experiments, I landed on the hearts – mostly in fluorescent colors with cherubic eyes and smiling faces. The exact opposite colors of all the street art in Chicago at the time. I was basically trying to cut through all the visual noise by combatting harshness with softness, and it worked! They really seemed to resonate with people.

Chris with his wife and business partner Jennifer Koehl
What was the inspiration behind your customization?

I made two pairs of boots for my customization because I couldn’t pick just one design. One pair was inspired by the hearts that I wheat paste in the streets – super neon – all with their own personalities. The second pair is heavily inspired by designs from the late 60’s and early 70’s, complete with phrases you’re likely to find on vintage pin-back buttons and graphic tee’s. I really wanted both pairs to feel electric in their own way.

What are you most looking forward to for the customization tour?

I’m really looking forward to meeting the other artists and seeing what they’ve created. Also, live painting is always fun! I’m excited to see what images I’ll be painting the most because the most popular image is almost always a surprise!

Tell us about your first pair of Dr. Martens.

I was a punk rock kid in the 1980’s and everyone I knew wore Doc’s. We all worshiped the English punks like The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Damned, The Jam, and Madness – all of whom wore Dr. Martens. My first pair of boots were black 1490’s. I was fifteen years old and I wore them until they were a shredded mess.

What is your favorite thing to do in New York City?

My number one favorite thing to do in NYC is to buy a cup of coffee, sit on a stoop and watch all the people… Maybe buy some Nuts 4 Nuts.

What do you hope people take away from your artwork?

I always want people to come away from my work with a feeling of fun, well being, and kindness.

One thought

  • I am a mural artist too and would love to actually customize a pair according to my own artwork one day when I can afford it!
    I owned around 6 pairs and love the purple ones with small flowers and really looked so painterly like a piece of art…That’s what I love about Dr Martens— Creativity at its best for shoes!
    I have ventured to painting in my own mono colored canvas shoes
    Check out my instagram for my artwork on walls and canvases @lowbelinda

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