Dec 27, 2023

How to Use Coffee To Dye Your Sneakers

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Sneakers soaked in espresso, coming right up.

Imagine this: You're seated in your favorite coffee shop. Someone walks up to you, looks you in the eye, and pours their entire medium-size drip coffee on your sneakers. You'd be upset, right? Now imagine paying for a pair of brand new sneakers, ordering your own coffee and then giving them the same treatment. Sneaker customizers on Instagram started doing it, and, now, many are following along.

Meet Jake Polino, for example, who goes by @jakepolino on Instagram (265,000 followers) and TikTok (2.1 million followers) and just Jake Polino on YouTube (355,000 followers). He's made 12 videos about dying his kicks with coffee, amassing more than 200 million views across all of his channels. In them, he customizes mostly Air Force 1s, a shoe, it seems, is easier to dye than others. Its most popular colorway, for one, is all-white, an ideal starting place.

Here's the short version

For a little more detail, watch the master at work:

Tutorial on the coffee dye AF1 #shoes #custom #kicks #diy #sneakerhead #coffee #tutorial

"Are you sick of this? I am definitely sick of this," Polino says at the start of a video he posted at the end of 2021. "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. People are just like, 'Make me coffee shoes! Make me coffee shoes!' I've been doing coffee shoes every day for like a month."

And he makes it look easy. Early on in his videos, he showcased just how messy the process can be, but that with the right amount of Cafe Bustelo, you could turn a standard pair of white Air Forces 1s into light tan vintage-tinged designer footwear. He sells his in limited quantities, but he hasn't kept his recipe too hush-hush. It's revealed over and over again, in nearly every video.

"First, you have to acetone everything — the leather and the rubber. Make sure it's as even as possible," he says in a video titled OFFICIAL COFFEE AIR FORCE 1 TUTORIAL. Don't do this without removing the sneaker's laces first. Acetone is the stripping compound in nail polish remover, but nail polish remover is rarely ever more than 60 percent acetone. Acetone, on the other hand, is 100 percent acetone.

It's strong, smelly and a little dangerous. When you rub it on your sneakers, do it by an open window and with the laces removed. Don't rub for too long, though. If overexposed, the materials on your sneaker could start to break down, ruining your dye project before it even begins.

Got tired of y’all doing these wrong #shoes #kicks #sneakerhead #custom #diy #tutorial

Next, Polino puts 2.5 cans (25 oz) of Cafe Bustelo into a big tub, which is ideally taller than the sneakers are. Fill it with boiling hot water — coffee-making kind of hot. Next, submerge the sneakers. Polino often uses bricks to weigh his down, which work but rocks would do the job. Or dumbbells. Let the sneakers soak for two hours, and then rinse them off in the sink. Lastly, let them air dry until, well, dry, and re-lace them.

His look good. The student work — aka shoes done by his followers — looks about the same, but those don't come with Polino's signature touch, oversized eyelets laced with natural twine. For now, at least in the comment section, where he sources it from remains a secret.