A BUILDER with a can of spray paint is powering England’s front-row star Ellis Genge.
Meet Bristol lad Matt Simmonds, the construction-worker-turned-rugby-boot-customiser to the stars.
Ellis Genge gets his rugby boots customised by Bristol-based artist Matt SimmondsCredit: Getty Images – Getty
The Leicester Tigers and England prop wears his boxing-design studs for matchesCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Simmonds quit his job as a builder last year to work on his business, the Sneakerz Lab, full time.
And since swapping bricks for boots he has seen prop Genge score the winner in a pair of his wheels against Scotland at Murrayfield.
Oh… and also Joe Marler performing his now-infamous testicle grab on Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones – wearing Simmonds’ boots.
Simmonds said: “It was pretty cool seeing Ellis score the winner against Scotland in the Banksy boots I designed for him.
“And Marler had all that controversy in grabbing that player’s nuts, but unfortunately there were no pictures of him from the knee down with the boots on!”
So the fellow Bristolian asked Simmonds to change his Adidas boots in memory of his hero.
The 25-year-old designer said: “I’ve done two pairs of boots for Ellis – the Muhammed Ali and Mike Tyson ones and also the Banksy ones – they were the original ones that he wanted.
“I cleaned a lot of Ellis’ mates’ trainers and that’s how it all came about. I’ve only designed boots for him and Joe Marler so far – but lots of custom trainers.
“Ellis’ Banksy ones were sprayed in the same way as Banksy would have done it and the Tyson and Ali ones were a bit more complex and had a lot more finer detail.
“I started with a stencil and had to finish them off by hand-painting it.
“Overall I reckon the boxing boots took about 20 hours over the space of a week.
“The issues that we had was the texture of the boots. The guys have to wear a certain type of boot because of the position that they play in the scrum.
“But they were a spikey leather and it was almost like they had lumps and bumps on them, so they were really hard to work with and you have to be wary it doesn’t look super-distorted from above.
“Then from that Joe Marler got in touch. I came up with the design after chatting to them and I do it on this app on my phone. We just send them a few ideas back and forth.
“With one pair of boots that Marler sent us he asked for ‘the most ridiculous design we could do’. So I just blacked them out and then put a load of crazy lines and colours in.
Simmonds did a pair of boots for Genge inspired by their fellow Bristolian Banksy
Joe Marler’s design brief was simply ‘the most ridiculous design we could do’
Marler was wearing a pair of Simmonds’ custom boots when he grabbed Alun Wyn JonesCredit: Alamy Live News
“The other pair were the ones that he wore against Wales with his kids’ names on the toe box in the circus font. I think he was happy with the outcome.”
Simmonds started off by buying old clothes and shoes and bringing them back to life before selling them on.
He has also sorted out the whole of the Bristol Bears rugby team as well as the city’s Championship footballers at City.
With the base level clean for a pair of natty old shoes coming in at just £25 it’s been a lucrative business to go alongside his new-found fame as a boot designer.
Simmonds added: “I used to just do it after work. I guess I’m a bit of a clean freak, for sure.
“There are many different methods and there were many mess-ups at the start as I ruined my own trainers trying to work out how to do it all on so many different fabrics that are all different.
“When I was working it went crazy as I was getting 30 or 40 pairs a day and I had no choice but to quit my building job and go full time.
“It got so busy so quick that it all made sense to take it on full time and I’ve not looked back.”
The designer even customised the box for this pair of boots for Marler
Genge is a huge boxing fan and may even be a long-lost relative of Muhammed Ali
Genge picks up his Banksy boots from the team at the Sneakerz Lab
They have sorted out both the Bristol Bears and Bristol City players with freshened-up trainers