Rey of Light | Rey Marquez Talks of his Work on "AIR"
The man charged with recreating the all the famous footwear for the film — Monster’s own Rey Marquez, sat down with us to describe his incredible work on “AIR”
You don’t need to be into sci-fi to know what Star Wars is. You don’t need to know about boxing to know who Muhammad Ali is. And you don’t need to be a sneakerhead to know what Air Jordans are.
A major Hollywood production documenting the creation of the most iconic item of clothing of all time hits theatres this week; and the man charged with recreating all the famous footwear for the film — Monster’s own Rey Marquez of SD Customs — sat down with us to describe his incredible work on “AIR”.
Or at least, he was supposed to sit down with us, but he kept delaying the start of the meeting….
REY: Sorry for keeping you guys waiting.
MONSTER: That was the first thing I was going to ask you actually: How DARE you fob us off for just some random guy who wanted a pair of shoes?
REY: That's what happens. The guy said “Yeah, can you wait an hour, two hours?” I said “For you, random guy? I’ll wait here for two hours.”
MONSTER: And just who was this random guy, tell us?
REY: (laughs) Well, it was Ben Affleck, and he came out of the room with his BFF Matt Damon.
MONSTER: No way! So, you were just with both guys?
REY: Yeah, we were walking down the hallway to the elevators, and I just gave them the shoes and they loved them. I wasn't brave enough to jump in the elevator with them though.
MONSTER: So, what, they wanted to keep the shoes from the film? Did you know about this?
REY: No. I actually made a pair for him that were not ones that are in the film. They're a little bit better. They're actually made out of alligator leather, real alligator hides. So they're a little bit better than the ones that I made for the movie, but almost the same.
MONSTER: Get the fuck out. Did he personally order them? How did this all come about?
REY: We were gonna make some — 10 ½ —for the actor, Matthew Maher who played (Nike) designer Peter Moore… but I didn’t have enough time, I had like two days left. Which is not enough time to make shoes. But I had already made these as a sample. They were very nice shoes in Ben’s size, so I said “Well we’ve got these in Ben’s size, we can give em to Ben. Worked out great!
MONSTER: So I just learned that the premiere was last night? Is that right?
REY: The global premiere, yes. I was there, red carpet.
MONSTER: What was it like?
REY: I mean, I'm still kind of processing everything. I was crazy. I was surrounded, I didn't know where to look. I was walking with Jimmy Kimmel and Chris Tucker and all these guys were there. Viola Davis, she's really nice. We saw some YouTubers, a lot of faces I recognize but I don't know their names… I'm like, “okay, that's the guy from Queer Eye!” Andrew Lincoln was there too. I was kind of stoked about that.
MONSTER: So you got to see the film, was that your first time?
REY: That was my first time seeing the movie. I had only seen the trailer.
MONSTER: And what did you think?
REY: I thought it was great! It was not what I kind of expected… it was better. Because they told the whole story about Nike that I don't think people knew about… I didn't even know about this story! Where Phil Knight and Sonny Vaccaro, they kind of bet it all on themselves and this guy —Michael Jordan — and I didn't know exactly how it went down. But I'm gladly told the story from that side, because it has some kind of parallels with my story.
I don't know if you know I did real estate for 21 years. And when I started getting into shoes, I sold my house, I went all in and invested in myself. I was like, I wanna start this shoe factory thing, and I got to do it the right way. So — with the with permission of my ex-wife — we sold the house and opened up a factory, and went all in.
MONSTER: Wow… so the film really resonated with you then?
REY: Yeah… that was kind of a big part of the film, was Nike pretty much went all in; If Jordan had said no, that would have been the end of Nike. Or if he turned out not to be a good player — or I should say, if he didn't turn out to be Michael Jordan — that would have been the end of Nike. They were going all in on this guy. And not just Phil Knight but Sonny Vaccaro — who I think were there at the premiere — but yeah, Nike wouldn’t exist if Jordan didn’t become Jordan.
MONSTER: Incredible! So you are essentially Nike in the film?
REY: I have classes, and I do I tell my students all the time: invest in yourself, invest in your passion, and somehow things just happen.
MONSTER: Great message. And that is so interesting, that someone who is so versed in the sneaker universe, learned stuff he wasn’t aware of from the film.
REY: Oh, yeah! I didn't know a lot of this stuff.
MONSTER: I’ve seen some reviews saying it might be one of the best sports films ever — that’s crazy!
REY: Even people who are not sports fans are gonna love this movie. Michael Jordan's not really in the movie at all. You see little bits and pieces of him, but not really. Yeah even people that are not sports fanatics are gonna enjoy this movie a lot. it's a good story.
MONSTER: I thought that was so interesting, that Michael Jordan is not really in the film, when you might think it is kind of a film all about him… was that unusual? Was that striking to you?
REY: I don't think it's strange that he's not in there… Ben Affleck, before the movie started, he was up on stage speaking to the people, and he told us what happened. He said he talked to Michael, he got Michael's blessing. But it was Michael's idea, he said: “I want this script, I want this movie to be about the other people, not me, the other people that made this happen. You know, talking about Phil Knight, and Sonny. And that’s exactly what they did.
MONSTER: So take me back to the very start — how on Earth did this deal with SD Customs come about? Were you aware that they were making this film, or did they just approach you out of blue? How did it all happen?
REY: They approached me like almost a year ago. JP Jones, he was in LA, he's a prop master, he does props for movies. And he said “Hey, do you know about shoes?” I'm like “yeah!”
So he asked me some questions; he was interested, and that same day he drove down from Los Angeles to San Diego. And he saw my shop and he said: “Okay, let's do this.”
He ordered two pairs of shoes right away, and said “How soon can you have them?” I did them and he loved the quality, he liked it. He kind of saw my passion for the industry, and how the community is growing. And he ordered all the shoes for the rest of the film.
MONSTER: That's fucking awesome. How exciting that must have been!
REY: Yeah I dunno if he Googled me or what!
MONSTER: So how many shoes did you make in the end?
REY: Well, I made like 13 shoes, but only the left shoes. Actually I made six pairs of Adidas, and eight pairs of Nikes… but again not really pairs, only the left shoes, so they were all different.
MONSTER: And are these actual shoes, or special movie props?
REY: No, they’re wearable, they are actual shoes there. I tried to keep them as identical to the original —there's only one little difference that true sneaker heads are going to be upset about. But they don't understand the backstory — and they're kind of hating on me for this — but it has a white tongue tag. And the 85’s have a red tongue tag. And I got a lot of crap for this.
But in 1984, this was before they actually released to the public, when they were showing up to Michael Jordan — and there's a lot of pictures that we saw that we referenced — before 1985 the tongues are all white.
MONSTER: Wow. So has anybody been giving you shit for it yet? Or you're expecting it?
REY: Yeah! Online people are already mad. But they've never seen it before.
I mean, I finished his shoes back in June, and I kind of forgot about them until the trailer came out during Super Bowl. Right away as soon as the trailer came out I started posting, and they were saying “yeah good job — but these are not (accurate)… they should have got Nike to do it, they should have made the replicas the same.” But it was actually a 1984 shoe that they were working on — not the final version, which has a red tag.
MONSTER: So do you feed the trolls? Do you get involved in the arguments online?
REY: A couple of my friends asked me, respectfully, “hey, why the white tongue?” But other people, I told my whole media team not to respond to any of it… I already explained once in the comments, if they want to they can read it. If not…
MONSTER: Don’t come for Rey Marquez of SD Customs if you don’t know your shit! Come on now! But, you don’t even need to be a sneakerhead to know what Jordans are… would you say it’s the most iconic piece of footwear of all time? Or even the most iconic piece of clothing of all time?
REY: I mean, it’s up there with the big Stan Smiths, for sure.
MONSTER: Can you think of another movie about a single item of clothing?
MONSTER: Sneakerhead culture is massive… why are people so into shoes?
REY: Full disclosure: I did not grow up a sneakerhead. I grew up wearing Payless and knock offs. It wasn’t until I was married and like 20-something years old that I got my first pair of Jordans. But I always liked making things, and I always made my own clothing. I saw the ‘93 Bulls with their warm-up jersey, and I couldn’t find it — so I just made one. I was always making stuff, but I didn't grow up a true sneakerhead.
Also, there is a thing with custom shoes and sneakerheads. There are some who look down on the custom shoe industry. They are what they call themselves “True Collectors” — they collect originals, and they see my shoes as a “replica”.
MONSTER: Is customizing something not the very definition of making an original? You are making a one-off piece… is that not original?
REY: I made it with my own hands! I did copy the 85 Jordan style, it is copying the Peter Moore design of the original one… but yeah there is a little bit of a divide there in sneaker culture with the customizers and the collectors. Collectors, they would rather restore their shoes and pay somebody a lot of money to clean it up, glue it back together and restore it, rather than making a new custom.
MONSTER: How long have you been with Monster, and what has that partnership been like?
REY: It's been great. They've been very supportive. I love working with Monster. At first, I'm not gonna lie, at first I thought they weren't even paying attention to me… but the gears were moving in the background. I've been with them for over two years now. The first year I didn't get much action. I was wondering if they even knew I existed the first few months. But in the background, all these gears and wheels were turning and that just blew up. And I couldn't be more grateful for them.
MONSTER: One thing I was wondering actually is why they even needed replicas? Do none of the originals exist?
REY: There are some… but they are worth tens of thousands of dollars. There are some out there. But they wanted them to look brand new in 1984.
MONSTER: So what happens to all these left shoes then after the film? Are they gonna go to a film museum? They’ve gotta put one in the Academy Museum up on Wilshire in LA…
REY: I don’t know! I kind of want em back, there’s some really nice shoes, I wanna display em! But I think they go into storage.
MONSTER: This has got be the biggest showcase of your work to date. The world is going to see your work, that’s awesome! Are you excited?
REY: Yes, for sure. My heart was beating really fast when I knew the scene was coming up, my heart was beating so fast. This is definitely my biggest showing, I was waiting for this. Like I said, I made the shoes in June but I couldn't say anything. And then once the trailer came out during Super Bowl, my heart and my phone just blew up, and everything's been crazy since.
MONSTER: Amazing. And obviously I won’t drill you for the financial details but… did they make it worth your while?
REY: Let me just say I've had this quote/unquote “hobby” of sneaker customizing for almost nine years. And this was my first, you know, BIG payday.
REY: There are some really powerful monologues in the film. The whole cast was great. Everybody was great. Jason Bateman, Viola Davis, Matt Damon. You know, I wouldn't be surprised if he's up for nominations.
But it’s not about Michael Jordan; it's about these guys taking a risk and betting everything on him, and what they believed in him. Kind of like what Monster did… but they didn't bet as much as Nike did! (laughs) They didn’t have to bet the whole company on me!
MONSTER: Lastly Rey, back to what you were saying about your big payday for just doing your hobby — they say if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life, and you seem to exemplify that. What what's it like living that life?
REY: I tell people on the daily, almost every day, I'm looking around making shoes, and I can't believe I get paid to do this. Like, I could be there 14 hours straight — and already I'm losing weight because I forget to eat — I just want to work and work and work.
MONSTER: Well we are so excited for you and we love you over here. Congratulations again on the project, and we are really, really looking forward to the film!