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Santa Monica teen paints custom shoes for pro athletes




Wes Burton shows off one of his recent custom cleat creations.
Wes Burton shows off one of his recent custom cleat creations.
Monica Bushman / KPCC
Wes Burton shows off one of his recent custom cleat creations.
Wes Burton's workspace for his custom cleat business he runs out of his family garage.
Monica Bushman / KPCC
Wes Burton shows off one of his recent custom cleat creations.
Monica Bushman / KPCC
Wes Burton shows off one of his recent custom cleat creations.
Wes Burton shows off the first pair of sneakers he ever painted, a gift for his mom Sabrina.
Monica Bushman / KPCC
Wes Burton shows off one of his recent custom cleat creations.
Monica Bushman / KPCC
Wes Burton shows off one of his recent custom cleat creations.
Wes Burton takes custom orders for shoes for professional athletes.
Monica Bushman / KPCC


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Wes Burton is a high school sophomore in Santa Monica.

He's a typical high school kid — he plays baseball and has a part-time job. But the work he does is pretty out of the ordinary. Burton has his own business painting custom shoes and cleats, and he paints them for professional athletes.

A Martinez visited Burton in his garage, which serves as his art studio, to find out how he started his business.

As a baseball player himself, Burton says, he'd always been into the latest gear and cleats. The New Balance cleats he'd always worn, until recently, weren't available with any sort of custom designs or colors.

"I wanted to be kind of different," Burton says. "I had seen people had been painting regular shoes, and so I figured why not try and take that to a cleat canvass."

His gigs for major leaguers started when he sent Enrique ("Kiké") Hernández of the Los Angeles Dodgers a message on Instagram.

"I just reached out to him, I told him I was a huge Dodger fan and that I just wanted to try painting a pair of cleats for him," Burton says. "He responded in a couple days and invited me down to Dodger stadium."

 

When @dodgers tweet your custom cleats....

A photo posted by Wes Custom Kicks (@wescustomkicks) on

Luckily Hernández was impressed. He asked Burton to paint another pair for him, and helped him get in contact with other major leaguers.

After a start-up loan from his mom Sabrina, Burton's business, Wes Custom Kicks, was soon up and running.

In the summer, Burton has a lot of free time available to devote to painting cleats, but in the off-season (and when school is in session) he has to set some limits on his orders.

There's school to focus on, along with his own baseball team "that I need to give as much time as I can to," Burton says. "Cause that's my major dream is to be a professional baseball player myself. So, it's a balancing act."

To listen to the full interview, click on the blue media player above.