For this week’s Deep Dive Series, we’re interviewing Clapper creator, custom shoemaker, and Navy veteran, @_Kicks.
@_Kicks is a Clapper creator best known for making seriously impressive custom shoes and helping new creators adjust to the platform. In this interview, we talked with @_Kicks about his time in the military, his process for creating shoes, his favorite sugar glider, his advice for new creators, and more!
And stick around until the end to see the custom shoes @_Kicks made for Clapper and learn how to order your own.
Keep reading this Deep Dive to hear more about this creator’s inspiring story. Make sure to tune in every Thursday at 5pm CT on our @ClapperCreator account to listen to the bonus questions that will only be available on our live radio show: Clapper Talks.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What does a day look like in your life?
Because I’m medically disabled I’m retired, so I’m at home. Besides the custom shoes and breeding sugar gliders, I spend a lot of time just working around the house. I have a service dog, so we go out and talk to people about service animals and the things they can do for us. And I spend a lot of time with my granddaughter.
For anyone who doesn’t know, @_Kicks is a veteran. We thank you for your service. When did you serve, and for how long?
I was in the Navy during the Persian Gulf War; I was on the USS Kalamazoo. I did my time there, got my honorable discharge, and felt like there was still more for me to do. So at that time I joined the Army National Guard and in 2004 I was in the Sunni Triangle (Iraq) as a convoy protection sergeant. I ended up doing a total of 15 years in the military before my medical discharge.
Have there been an organizations or resources that helped you after you left the service? Or any that you’d recommend for veterans that might be listening?
Yes! If you or someone you know is suffering with PTSD, TBIs, anything like that, a great organization is Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs. They’re out of Tampa, FL, they work with veterans, and they train service dogs for your specific needs. I’ve been with my service dog since 2017 and it has been life changing. His name is GP, which stands for Grosse Pointe because the Grosse Pointe Board of Realtors in Michigan were the ones who paid for all of his training. He was trained for a year and a half to meet my specific needs. He’s a German shepherd and we go everywhere together; he loves to fly on airplanes and everything else.
He does what’s called “shielding”, so if I’m out in public one of my PTSD triggers is people coming up behind me. He’ll stand behind me and leans against my legs to let me know there’s someone coming up. He also can sense if I’m starting to have an anxiety attack or a nightmare and he alerts me to that. He changed everything
Your account is called “Kicks” because you make custom shoes! We know that this comes from using art as a way to deal with PTSD, but could you tell us a little about how you transitioned from art to custom kicks?
It was actually by mistake, happenstance. I started doing art to clear my head and give me something to focus on for my PTSD. One day I was watching videos on YouTube and saw somebody paint some shoes. I was like “I could do that!” Then I just kept pushing myself to go farther and farther. Now I’m adding lights in shoes, I’m hydro-dipping with the hydro-film they use on cars – I’m trying all kinds of different things.
On a super unrelated note, we saw that you’ve got sugar gliders! This is a pretty unusual pet. How did you become a sugar glider dad?
Being that I’m retired and at home, I was telling my wife that I needed something to occupy my time when I don’t have shoes to do. I started looking into different small businesses in my area and found that sugar gliders are actually a very large international business. So I started doing my research and ended up getting my first sugar glider. He’s amazing! His name is Taz and he’ll sleep in my pants pocket, or if I’m wearing a hoodie he’ll sleep in my hood. I got to thinking “you know what, let’s look into breeding”. We ended up getting our female, C.G, and now I’m a licensed sugar glider breeder.
They’re extremely cuddly. They want to be with you, they bond to you, and at night if they’re out and I go walking by their cage, they all jump to the front because they want to come out and hang out with me. They’re nocturnal, but the nice thing about sugar gliders are they don’t get angry if you wake them up during the day. I can go in there anytime and pick them up. They’ll play and when they’re ready to go to sleep, they’ll crawl in my shirt pocket, my hood, or whatever and just hang out.
So, when did you join Clapper? How did your journey as a creator begin?
I joined Clapper the second week of March in 2021. I’d been on other platforms, making YouTube videos of shoes, and trying other stuff. I heard about Clapper just through conversation and decided to check it out. I saw that it was a smaller platform, still relatively new, and I wanted to get onboard early. I’ve made some great friends since I’ve been here, and I’ve been in a lot of different collaborations. My journey here’s been focusing on my niche. Right at the beginning I was like “everything’s got to be shoes,” and then I realized there’s a lot more to me than just that. That’s when I started posting a lot of different things, like my thoughts of the day, my service animal, the sugar gliders. Just to show who I am as a bigger picture instead of one aspect of life.
And, if I can make a quick plug, I’m starting two game shows! One with @MysterE and one with @Queenager. We should be rolling those out in the next coming weeks, so be on the look out! We’ve got a lot of other creators that are going to be contestants.
Recently, we saw a lot of your videos helping new users adjust to Clapper and feel welcomed on the app. How did you fall into being an unofficial Clapper tutor?
Well that’s kind of what happened to me when I first got here! A lot of the people that I met were real helpful and I’m always of the mindset of paying it forward. One of the things I like to do is I’ll jump around in Lives and introduce myself and I started seeing that a lot of the same questions were coming up with new people. How do I do this, how do I do that, so I took the opportunity and just started posting. I’ll get DMs from people saying “this worked, I’m growing,” and that’s great. That’s how this is: it’s community, finding your people.
What do you enjoy most about Clapper? In what ways do you feel like Clapper needs improvement?
What I enjoy most about Clapper is the community and really getting to connect with people on a different level than other social media. I’ve made so many great friends, and we’ll text each other regular texts – “hey, how’s your day, how are you doing” – because of this app. That’s one thing that I really love about it is the true friendships you can make.
As far as things that need to change…like I said, I like to jump around in Lives and introduce myself. When I first started, you could type a description of what your Live was. Lately – with the new creators coming over, doing the pull-tabs and the slots and the bingo – you go into a live and there’s no faces, there’s no people. If there could be a way they could but a description or even categorize the Lives so we can see these guys are doing gaming, these guys are hanging out, these guys are creating tumblers. Something that gives us more direction on where to go.
What advice would you give new users that want to be successful on Clapper?
Don’t worry about your numbers. Just be yourself. Post what you feel happy with, post what makes you unique, and the numbers will come on their own. That’s the best advice I can give; just be yourself and interact with people.
But wait! What do you do if you want to order a set of shoes from @_Kicks?
Basically the person DMs me and says they’re interested. I ask them what kind of design they’re looking for, and we talk it over. They can also send me some ideas and if they’ve seen a design that they like! Once we get it narrowed down, I can get a pretty good idea of what the price range will be. Then I send them my address and they ship the shoes to me. I do the work and when it’s complete, they pay me and I ship them back. A lot of times for me, if somebody’s like “just do whatever you want” it takes me a long time because I have to stare at the shoe until it speaks to me! I have to see everything in my head before I move forward.