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Switching Gears: Ink Master Alumni Now Creates Custom Air Jordans Full-Time...And Isn't Turning Back

Thom Bulman with his TMNT switchable Swoosh Air Jordan 1s

When the COVID-19 Pandemic gained steam in the early Summer of 2020, just about every single tattoo shop in America shut down for an extended length of time along with most businesses. With basically NOBODY giving clarity on how tattoo artists & shops were supposed to stay afloat, Ink Master alumni Thom Bulman did what many other tattoo artists were forced to- switch gears.

But our friend Thom had to do it twice. While many people, including Thom took to doing art commissions and paintings full-time, that is a hard bag to put on your shoulders. Thom kept creating impressive pop culture themed art, but it wasn't sticking as much as he'd hoped. You see, while he's known the world-over for his "Bulmanized" cartoon-style tattoos he began calling "Tattoons" (he was the first to coin that, don't let anyone tell you different), having it translate to sustainable designs in an online shop wasn't cutting it.

I want to make it clear that Thom is an incredible tattoo artist within his world. He's won countless awards, been the subject of many spotlights and articles in the tattoo world and is a regular at tattoo conventions across the country...but like the thousands of other well-known artists, the weight and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be too much even for his prowess.

"New career, who dis?" *nervous laughter*

We spoke with Thom recently and he weighed in on the uncertainty that led him to it all-

"We were just locked down. That's it. The State of New York cracked down VERY hard on Tattoo Shops and since they're a weird grey area of business anyway, we were given very little clarity with very extreme punishments if we violated the 'rules' set forth as unclear as they were. I am VERY high-risk with pre-existing conditions, plus my family's safety is my top priority so I had zero choice to switch gears. I'm in a small rural town called Cortland and Covid basically decimated a large part of the area, mainly I believe because of locals' disbelief in the seriousness of the virus."

A Childish Gambino Caricature design from 'This Is America"
Childish Gambino, Bulmanized!

You see, tattooing is a unique profession. When you build up a reputation as did Bulman, it's possible to make a living and have nearly guaranteed income when you have a waiting list. There will be cancelations and annoying clients, but even with over 100,000 followers on Instagram, relying on an online shop that had some albeit amazing designs to support his family of five? It wasn't sustainable, so Thom gave a shot at learning something deeper that was a hobby of his- sneakers. Not just any sneakers- pop culture sneakers, built from the ground-up with raw materials, made by hand individually. These are not paint-overs or acrylic stick-on jobs.

The callouses were there. Now they have a different purpose.

Bulman's first foray publicly with the mission was in Spring of 2021 when he announce he had taken a course from The Shoe Surgeon himself, Dominic Ciambrone. He admitted it was hard as hell but an exhilarating experience. He showed a pair of Air Jordan 1 based on the iconic look of the one & only Canadian dynamo, the short & snarling SNIKTERATOR(made that up, you're welcome) himself, James Howlett aka WOLVERINE from the 1990s Animated X-Men series. (yea, you hear that riff too now).

Since then, his work has been well...insane. Check it out.

These are just a FEW of the insane items he's made already, I personally have a set of WOLVERINE kicks on the way which emulate the animated 1990s X-MEN TV series. I plan to do an unboxing of these post-haste.

Thom's work is already in high-demand as each design is super-limited on the account of he can only create so many at a time by hand. If you want a pair, you better act quick when they drop or reach out to him for your own custom pair.

You can expect to pay anywhere between $299-$999 depending on the customs you get from him and the "Pop Drops" which are released every month are usually limited to around 20 pair per design. If you'd like to meet Thom, he will be appearing at the Super Jersey Comic Expo in Holmdel, NJ on November 6th as a special guest and the only one of his kind at the show, alongside famous comic creators like Jim Shooter, Larry Hama, John Beatty and others.

Follow Bull_Airs on Instagram and check out for updates & releases!

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