Mache finished up Ronda Rousey’s custom sneakers just in time for WWE’s Wrestlemania 35 at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium on April 7. That was on the heels of getting Becky Lynch’s customs completed, a studio visit to design with Kofi Kingston, and finishing sneakers for Liv Morgan and Sasha Banks.
Mache — really Dan Gamache, owner of Mache Custom Kicks — has turned into the go-to sneaker customizer for WWE. “It has been a busy month and a half,” he says.
The WWE connection started in 2015 when Mache created a pair of shoes for Nikki Bella for SummerSlam. “I did her a pair and at the time she was the only one doing sneakers in the ring,” Mache says. “Then came Enzo Amore, Shane McMahon, and then more of the girls. It really grew organically.”
With WWE corporate approving everything worn in the ring, the company started hitting up Mache for projects, along with individual wrestlers, even leading to official collaborations with Foot Locker and Chalk Line. “There is a lot of growth and a lot of good relationships that have been built,” he says. “I feel like it can grow over the years.”
He’s keeping his design for this weekend under wraps, allowing the star personalities to roll out their “top secret” looks when they enter the stadium. But he will say that his Rousey design fits in line with the late “Rowdy” Roddy Piper's motif that has become her gimmick.
"He's made a lot of cool sneakers for everyone. We were at Madison Square Garden and he was hanging out backstage and he just said, 'Hey, I want to design a pair of shoes for you," says former WWE Women's Champion Alexa Bliss, who also is one of the co-hosts of Champs Sports weekly Sneaker Watch show on Snapchat. "I didn't think anything of it and he brings me this pair of custom Vans that have my logo handpainted on them The scratch writing was really cool and I wear them all the time for appearances. I just told him to do whatever he wanted, and he over-delivered."
The most popular model Mache designs in the wrestling world is easily the Air Jordan 1—the most versatile style for wrestlers. “When you start getting into technical basketball shoes, they don’t have flat soles, so when [the wrestlers] are going off on ropes, they need something flat,” Mache says. The only one of the regulars not lacing Jordan 1s is Kingston, who mixes between performance basketball models or crazy one-wear deals, Mache says, such as the Nike Zoom Rookie “Galaxy” model that recently made a return. Mache says to watch for the latest “nice little treat” that Kofi will pull out for the heavyweight championship match, hinting that it will be a design that hasn’t been customized all that often.
Mache’s love of art merged with his interest in sports all the way back in 2001 when he saw artwork on shoes for the first time. Before the social media days, his galleries were New York barbershops. Then social media happened, and his designs grabbed more attention, gracing multiple NBA courts, whether it be a LeBron James Ironman-themed shoe worn during the NBA Finals or pairs for Dwyane Wade, Anthony Davis, or Russell Westbrook.
But basketball isn’t Mache’s only game. “It used to really be that I would have downtime and now I don’t,” he says about his schedule. “It is a blessing.” With MLB rules getting laxer, he’s dabbled in baseball more, such as a heavy season of designs slated for New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia and New York Mets ballplayer Robinson Cano. “CC and I,” Mache says, “will be doing a bunch of stuff and have a bunch of ideas. It will be exciting.”
Mache limits his roster of players, preferring to stay somewhat exclusive so he can give each player the attention they need every week rather than design for 50 guys at a time. That shows up in the NFL season with Stefon Diggs of the Minnesota Vikings and also Adam Thielen, Michael Thomas, Latavius Murray and Saquon Barkley as his feature athletes. “I didn’t want the artwork to suffer,” Mache says. “I’d rather do two or three guys (a week) and do really good work and carve my niche that way.”
His most recent basketball work, Stephen Curry’s “Moon Landing” sneakers, sold at auction for $58,000, and he’ll will remain busy as the playoffs get started.
“I love the variety,” he says. “I think for creatives, if you do something over and over you start to not love that design and that shoe. With cleats, sneakers, Coachella, it is exciting and something to look forward to and keep me on my toes. You never know who is on the other end of the line when they call.”
Mache’s work has become well known enough he was recently included in the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S10, part of a marketing push to show how creatives relate to the phone. For Mache, being part of the campaign simply allowed him to show that he loves the camera on the Samsung, something he uses for editing and design.
Mache’s process has grown more refined over the years, as he’s learned the best strategies for differing styles of sneakers. Using paints and dyes, Mache creates his high-detailed art based off reference photos or his own custom drawings. Generally, he builds one-off designs, but will often work on two styles for an athlete or artist at one point. Once done, he uses the Samsung camera to once again get detailed imagery of his work to share on social media, saying he appreciates the direct-to-Instagram feature of the phone. “I pride myself in not over filtering things,” he says. “What you see is what you get.”
With the big push of Wrestlemania soon behind him, Mache can dive back into his six-month wait list for shoes — he encourages customers to find personal connections to the art they want and not simply trends because of the lead time — and the latest for the top pros. With baseball season going, plus negotiations for projects he hopes come to fruition for May and June, he is also working up some Coachella designs, such as two pairs for Smokepurpp. A key connection with Puma has Mache working with a lot of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation artists including Big Sean, A Boogie wit da Hoodie, and even a sneaker he recently did for the late Nipsey Hussle that was worn before the rapper’s passing.