Benji Blunt x adidas Superstar 80s “Michael Sterling”
- MODEL: ADIDAS SUPERSTAR
- DESIGNED BY: Benji Blunt
- MADE IN: UNITED KINGDOM
- MADE ON: --/12
Benji Blunt resurfaces once again from the depths of his leather laboratory to drop another masterpiece of Superstar science on us: the “Michael Sterling” Superstar 80s. Green, grey, and burgundy, and personalized by the presence of Sterling’s own John Hancock scrawled on the heel and again underneath his photo-realistic portrait painted on the tongue. But what’s a Benji Blunt creation without a touch of reptilian texture across the upper?
Alright boys, how’d you meet?
Michael Sterling: We met on the Superstar Database. I’d seen some of Ben’s design and custom trainer work and could tell that he had some serious talent so I contacted him to do a graffiti t-shirt logo for me for a charity event. Then began a process of him helping me out with logo and design work and me snagging shoes for him from over here in the States. Over the months Ben’s become a really great friend to me.
Benji Blunt: Yeah, like Mike said, he approached me for some design work, and we started to chat a bit more off site. He’s also been a big help with sourcing and shipping shoes to me as well.
How did the collaboration process begin?
MS: I knew that I wanted to have Ben do a custom Superstar 80′s for me if he could find the time in his schedule. He was actually the one who tracked down the white on white 80′s in my size on UK ebay. After we had secured the canvas, we started kicking around some ideas.
BB: We weren’t really in any rush. I had some other jobs on so we bounced a few ideas back and forth in the interim.
And how’d the process proceed… did Michael have any requirements?
MS: Oh, man. We went through tons of different concepts.
BB: Mike was great though as he just let me go mad with ideas. Initially we were going to do a futuristic style colourway and pattern, kind of like Tron colours and exploding tessellations…
MS: At one point we were gonna do a blue and yellow colorway with a kind of varsity design, because those were my high school colors from one of the two high schools that I attended.
BB: Yeah that ‘High School’ shoe idea had his old school colours and some suede or nubuck letterman detail carved and mounted into the heel! I experimented on an old pair and got some good results, but soon shelved the idea as it really wasn’t a classy look for an 80s. They started to look like a high street SS2.
MS: Yeah, and all of a sudden, we started seeing yellow on blue colorways popping up everywhere so we decided to go in a different direction. In the end, I knew that whatever Ben came up with would be stellar so I trusted him and just let him do his thing. My only requirement was that It wasn’t too over the top.
BB: I think you said you liked dark uppers, Mike, and wanted any detailing to be subtle and not too ‘POW!’. Really though, as he said, Mike let me decide in the end. I had un-stitched the stripes and textured them to look like animal hide, similar to elephant skin or something. I wanted an alligator pattern, but not texture, to complement this. Again an animal theme throughout a lot of my work! I didn’t want to hot pen the skin but keep it smooth and a little shiny.
Onto the design itself, are there any details either of you want to specifically point out about this shoe?
MS: Well, probably the coolest thing is what Ben calls the ‘Colonel Sanders’; the pic of me on the tongue done in the style of the Ilie Nastasse, or Adi on the 35ths, or the Ian Browns. That just blew me away.
BB: Mike is a legend for helping SSDB members out, including myself. He is also great to chat to about family, life, music, and art. That’s way I thought of the endorsed adidas tennis shoes of the 70s. Mike had to have an autographed Mike Sterling Superstar! Complete with his mug on the tongue detail and the signature beneath.
MS: I also love my sig on the heel cap. I had emailed him a pic of my signature so the he could do something with it but I wasn’t really sure what he was using it for. I can’t imagine how long the hand-painted croc pattern must have taken.
How do you both feel about the outcome?
MS: They’re fantastic! Ben’s a real perfectionist and his attention to detail is just astounding. As great as Errol’s photos are of these shoes, they just cannot do them justice.
BB: There was quite a bit of experimentation with these and elements had to reworked throughout the process. The end product is difficult to judge when you have been working on them over 30 hours! But I’m pleased… I know I would do some things differently, but as I said to Mike, I want to do another Sterling 80 some day. So for that I will have to up my game!
So nothing negative about the process?
MS: Well, I got really tired of Ben apologizing for taking so long with these customs!
BB: Yes, I am always apologizing… and we were going to do a Tron-like colorway at first!
MS: Yeah, that whole Tron concept was probably a bad idea anyway… I’m glad we re-thought that one!
Alright Benji, as always, what’d you learn from this shoe?
BB: Lots… too much! It would be easier to stick to tried and tested techniques really, but boring. So it’s always going to be a challenge and I’m grateful for the patience shown by Mike and Errol in this case. An example would be the coverage of certain colours, pigments vary in their opacity and this can be frustrating. Also no pair of shoes seems to be made with the same materials, even the same model and colourway. I really would like to work on some premium leather on an 80. So if adidas wouldn’t mind…?
What can you tell us about your technique to make the patterning?
BB: I wanted this pattern to be more subtle than my previous Safari patterns. The hues are closely related so that from a distance the shoes just look a teal green. In this case the background hue was painted after the foreground scaly pattern, not like the Safaristar where the spots were added after the upper was painted. I did this to use a masking fluid technique. It allowed me to paint the lighter hue all over the upper and then just remove the mask. The results were iffy and probably not worth the hassle as a lot of touching up was needed. I think straight hand painting by a tiny brush would have been quicker. But it does have a different feel to it than the Safari’s. Again it’s a learning curve and on future shoes I may use it again, knowing it’s limitations and benefits.
What about the heel signature?
BB: So I asked Mike for his signature with the endorsed shoe in mind and as it’s only his initials it looked perfect for the heel!
What about the tongue printing… any clues mate?
BB: I haven’t printed it. I used some gold-ish paint as a base and then worked on top in black using a brush and some other jiggery pokery.
And what about the sockliner signature?
BB: Somewhere different, eh?
Benji man, your shoe tags are one thing, but the personalized boxes are getting beautiful… can you give us any words on that? Also, are the bar code and serial numbers self-created?
BB: I don’t make barcodes or serials, just add a few edits to what is already there. People – trainer collectors – are always saying they can’t figure out what shoes are in which box!
Ain’t that the truth! Lastly, where’d the laces come from… BBoyLaces?
BB: Yeah Tom’s laces. I nearly always use Tom’s. Occasionally I have to use something else like Toby for colourway reasons but BBoyLaces own branded are the best quality I have seen. They really are in a league of their own.
So Michael, have you worn ‘em yet?
MS: I just got them two days ago and those two days have been very wet, so no, not yet. I purchased some very nice, cedar shoe trees before they arrived so they will be well-loved, even in storage.
But will you wear them?
MS: Absolutely! It will definitely be a sunny day with a zero percent chance of precipitation though!
And last question for you: do these shoes mean something personal to you?
MS: They mean something personal to me because I know the amount of time and work that went into them. Like Ben, I’m the father of two so I know what it takes to balance your life, your work, and your passions. To me, the work that he’s done on these customs speaks volumes about how that can be done, and done to perfection.
There’s not much more to add to that, now is there? Thank you both for time and energy… and if anyone else out there is in need of a personalized shoe you can get in touch with Benji Blunt by hittin’ him up on his new website.
written by Dylan Cromwell
photography by errol
shoes contributed by Michael Sterling