The Most Iconic Vans Sneakers
In 1966, brothers Paul and Jim Van Doren opened the doors of The Van Doren Rubber Company in Anaheim, California, establishing what would be one of the most reputable sneaker companies today. This year, the Vans Footwear company is expected to rake in a total of almost $13.5 billion (almost P700 billion), thanks to its millions of fans around the globe.
Yet, when it started over 50 years ago, the store only retailed three styles for $2.49 and $4.99. Vans also only had display models in stock, so it asked customers to choose the models they wanted and come back for their orders later in the day. Over the years, Vans has released several models, including high-profile sneaker collaborations, and branched out to different kinds of footwear and apparel. Today, it is an icon in the skater subculture and the sneaker world.
We round up some of the most iconic Vans sneakers, in case you’re lacking a few on your shoe rack.
First released in 1966 when the company was born, the Vans Authentic shoe has been there since the very beginning. Known as Vans’ first deck shoe, this design quickly became popular among surfers and skaters in Southern California thanks to its durability and grip. Its canvas uppers, low-rise design, visible stitching, and classic waffle rubber sole give this shoe a timeless style. With its minimalist look, you can pair them with rolled-up jeans, chinos, or practically anything with a laid-back feel.
Vans Era first stepped on the scene in 1976 and was Inspired by Dogtown skate legends Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta. The Era, an upgrade on the Authentic deck shoe, included a padded collar as well as new multi-panel construction that allowed for different color combinations and abstract prints and patterns. This shoe, which was the first to introduce the “Off the Wall” logo, allowed for funkier colorways and patterns than the Authentic. Yet in its more classic styles, the Era also makes for a great smart-casual companion because of its padding that adds more structure to the shoe.
Vans Half Cab
Released in 1993, the Half Cab is a response to the original Caballero shoe, the first signature pro athlete shoe released in the skateboarding industry in 1989. Named after pro skater Steve Caballero, the high-top was created with ankle support in mind before a customization trend, which changed the face of skate footwear history, emerged. As technical flip-tricks became more popular on the scene, Steve inspired street skaters to create their own shoes by cutting the collars in half. This move spawned the Half Cab’s release. The style promised to be “lighter, better, faster,” and continues to be one of Vans’ most iconic silhouettes today.
Vans Classic Slip-On
In 1982, a 21-year-old Sean Penn walked into a Vans store, picked out a pair of checkerboard sneakers he liked, and told director Amy Heckerling he would like to wear them on camera for the movie they were filming. That film was Fast Times at Ridgemont High, where Penn played stoner SoCal surfer Jeff Spicoli, a role that put him and his Classic Slip-Ons on the map. Sales skyrocketed for the Slip-Ons, which then became one of Vans’ most enduring styles and an emblem of youth culture.
Vans Old Skool
In 1977, the Old Skool debuted with its now-signature Jazz Stripe on the side (it was originally a doodle by Paul Van Doren). The chunky plimsoll design featured a low top, a thick sole, durable suede and canvas upper, and a padded tongue and upper lining.
Released in 1978 in its classic black-and-white colorway, the Sk8-Hi is undoubtedly Vans’ most popular high-top shoe with performance and support in mind. The higher silhouette guards the ankle, protecting skaters from injuries, while padded sections and reinforced toe caps ensure comfort and longevity. The Sk8-Hi also comes with a signature jazz stripe.
Vans x Fear of God
Vans worked with streetwear designer Jerry Lorenzo and his Fear of God label to create a limited-edition collaboration in the Sk8-Hi and Era silhouettes. The shoes featured customizations in a classic black-and-white color combination as well as typography prints. It also featured a perforated toe box in off-white and an elevated midsole.
Vans x Supreme x Public Enemy
Vans and Supreme have had a long-standing relationship, yet this particular 2006 collaboration inspired by hip-hop group Public Enemy is one of its most memorable. Releasing two designs under the collection, the styles showcased the Public Enemy shooting logo, as well as the detail, “It takes a nation of millions to hold us back,” running along the sole side.
Vans x Murakami
In 2015, Vans collaborated with famed Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami for Vault. Murakami is best known for mixing high- and low-brow art, as well as cheerful sculptures inspired by Japanese pop culture. The collaboration saw Murakami’s signature smiling flower and skull motifs on the uppers of the classic Slip-Ons, the artist's favorite Vans silhouette.
Vans x Anti Social Social Club
Released at the Dover Street Market, the collaboration between Vans and Anti Social Social Club was one of the most highly awaited. The Vans Vault Sk8-Hi and Authentic silhouettes were fitted out with branded, word-ridden lacing, stitch detailing in faded pink, and a contrasting tooling system in the similar pink hue. The shoes also featured an embossed “GET WEIRD” typography on the heel counter.
Vans x Golf Wang (2015)
For the third time, Vans teamed up with Tyler, the Creator’s Odd Future label, Golf Wang to create designs that centered around the Old Skool silhouette. The styles featured vibrant colorways, with three of them showing off Vans’ iconic checkerboard print and another Golf Wang’s tri-color arrangement. “Golf” was also printed on the tongue of each sneaker.