Local businessman and artist Billy Hobbs lights up at the mention of someone he has made shoes for.
And with a clientele for his sneaker customizing business that includes a lot of big names, Hobbs keeps on shining.
Hobbs, who grew up in Lexington and has raised his family there, with a son currently attending the University of Kentucky, is the founder and sole operator of True Blue Customs.
True Blue Customs is a small business that personalizes shoes to the client’s wants. Designs are hand-drawn and painted by Hobbs, who has been doing it since 2002. Hobbs paints all types of shoes, ranging from sneakers to cleats to boots.
He worked for Pepsi-Cola for 12 years as a truck driver before taking his business full-time. Thanks to encouragement from a friend for whom he restored a pair of Nike Air Jordan 1s back in 2002, Hobbs now gets to revamp sneakers and cleats as his job.
Having been full-time with True Blue Customs since 2012, Hobbs has since created a Dunkin’ Donuts design for UK Basketball Coach John Calipari, painted a pair for UK Basketball special assistant to the head coach John Robic and designed a Kobe and Gigi Bryant tribute pair for former UK basketball player and current Dallas Mavericks power forward Willie Cauley-Stein.
Customizing sneakers was not Hobbs’ first art form, though; he started drawing sneakers in middle school.
“I was obsessed with drawing shoes, believe it or not,” Hobbs said. “I would design my own Nikes back when I was in middle school … I had to have every sneaker that came out; every new release, I had to have those growing up.”
Customizing sneakers lets him combine his inner sneakerhead with his artistic and creative abilities to make something incredible. Aside from the imaginative aspect, Hobbs is also incredibly motivated.
“You’re responsible for your own hustle,” he said.
Hobbs said he could do from 20 to 70 pairs in a month depending on the design for the clients.
“I’m always thinking about my next pair,” he said.
One of his side projects shows off some more of his artistic roots. Hobbs would draw old cars and bonded with his father over a shared love of them.
“I try to take Saturdays off,” he said. “I’m currently building an old hot rod with my dad.”
His family’s creative side also shines through as Hobbs said that both of his children are artistic and that he loves to support them in their endeavors.
Hobbs said his daughter enjoys makeup, and his son has a clothing brand.
“It’s still art, just a different brand,” Hobbs said.
Hobbs' son Bryson raved about his father’s determination and creativity, saying that seeing his dad take his art seriously inspired him to make his own brand and pursue art. Bryson said one of his favorite qualities about his dad is “he just likes making things.”
Bryson shared a story of getting an unexpected text from his dad one day.
“One time I was just sitting there, and I get a text from him, and turns out this man was just hanging out with Willie Cauley-Stein ... and just sent me a picture of his chain,” Bryson said.
That is not the only wild story Hobbs has either. He even customized a pair for Coach Calipari to gift to rapper Drake for his birthday.
Hobbs said he never expected to have his side hobby become his full-time profession. He still loves it, though. He said the most enjoyable part of his job is building and refining his art.
Hobbs knew as a child that he had a passion for art and shoes and that child would be proud of what he became: a family man with children involved in different artistic pursuits; a son who gets to build cars with his father on his days off; and a thriving businessman whose product is based on his art.
As someone who knows Hobbs best, Bryson describes his father as someone who “likes to shock people, innovate, do something someone’s never done before.”