Preseason football games don’t mean much for a veteran like DeAngelo Hall, but the Redskins cornerback still wants to look his best for the fans, coaches and cameras alike on the handful of snaps he plays. When Hall takes the field Monday against the Cleveland Browns, he is expected to do so in a flashy pair of custom cleats designed and painted by a local artist and fan.
“I was able to blend the colors in really nice, going from gold to burgundy to black,” said David E. Zambrano, 38, who presented two pairs of cleats to Hall at Redskins training camp in Richmond last week.
It isn’t the first time that Zambrano, who has been painting shoes for a living for two years and opened up his first store — DEZ Customz — in Laurel on Friday, has produced a one-of-a-kind cleat for a Redskins player. Thanks to a connection through a relative of a friend, Zambrano designed the custom cleats that Redskins linebacker London Fletcher wore against the Giants last December in his final game in the NFL.
“That was an honor,” Zambrano said. “I had goosebumps. I’ve been a Redskins fan my whole life and I’m a defensive guy, so I was emotional and it was awesome. It was a great experience. He really wanted to commemorate D.C. and the team. I wanted to make sure that the ‘Iron Man 256′ was on there. I did a silhouette of the monuments on the toe part of the shoe, his number on one side and the Redskins emblem on the other shoe. It was surreal.”
Zambrano had dinner with Fletcher after the season ended and Fletcher presented him with a game-worn pair of signed cleats. Hall was a big fan of Fletcher’s retirement kicks and reached out to his former teammate on Twitter about putting him in touch with Zambrano. The connection was made.
In addition to Hall and Fletcher, Zambrano has also painted custom cleats for Bengals receivers A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu, as well as former Dunbar High standout Arrelious Benn. I asked him how he’d respond if Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant inquired about a custom job.
“Work is work,” he said with a laugh. “Of course I’ll give it 100 percent, and it would be extremely stylish and great. At the end of the day, I’m a professional.”
While painting shoes and other apparel has only recently become Zambrano’s full-time job, he’s loved art since he was a kid growing up in Arlington. He became interested in graffiti at a young age after seeing it on his Metro commute to Silver Spring to visit his father, who owned a body shop.
“That was my first passion,” said Zambrano, who is self-taught. “Graffiti all the time.”
After graduating from Washington-Lee High in Arlington in 1994, Zambrano says he worked several odd jobs. When he was 22, he started painting cars at a custom body shop. About 10 years ago, he began painting sneakers as a hobby. Through connections with influential artists in the custom sneaker community, he gained exposure and a larger clientele. Starting his own business became a reality.
Zambrano says his store, which offers consignment shoes in addition to T-shirts, socks and other custom apparel, is focused on sneaker culture and art. “We don’t want mall traffic, we don’t want your everyday consumer in there,” he said. “There’s a select clientele that really respects what we do. Those are the people that seek us out.”
Prior to opening his store, Zambrano’s studio took up half of the living room in his Gaithersburg home.
“There’s not a lot of women who would put up with that,” Zambrano, who has three kids, said of his loving wife. “She is a huge component in all of this. From day one, she really believed this would be something special. She’s never had a doubt. I feel so blessed to be able to something that I’ve dreamed about forever.”
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