Vans is one of the most well-known brands globally, known for its rebellious spirit and minimalist adaptability. Many exclaim imitation is the highest form of flattery, and Vans have been copied but never surpassed in durability, comfort, and style.
The design has stayed virtually constant since its inception in the 1960s, demonstrating its legendary significance and timelessness among skate communities and beyond. So, whether you’re a new buyer or have five pairs and counting, here’s our comprehensive guide to Vans styles and history.
And while we’re on the topic of styles and history, why don’t you take a look at the history and many styles of Steve Madden and Emilio Pucci.
The History of Vans
Vans was created in Anaheim, California, in 1966 by brothers Jim and Paul Van Doren. Originally known as The Van Doren Rubber Company, the initial Vans styles were manufactured the same year and have remained unchanged. As skaters started to adore the shoes for their toughness and sticky soles, the name was rapidly abbreviated to the far more catchy Vans, and the shoes became a must-have for the California skate culture by the mid-70s.
By the end of the 1970s, the brand had developed their Authentic, slip-on, Old Skool, and Sk8-Hi designs, all of which featured the signature “jazz stripe,” which was inspired by one of Paul Van Doren’s doodles.
Different Styles of Vans Shoes
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The Vans Authentic was the shoe that started it all, and it was the shoe that launched Vans as a footwear company. The simplicity of its design, a rubber vulcanized sole unit with a canvas upper and vamp, is attractive. Suede was eventually added to provide more wear, but this evolved into the Era, which differs slightly from the Authentic.
Canvas is frequently available in various colors, with blue, red, and white being the most common and a variety of patterns, such as the renowned Vans black and white checkerboard. It’s the most basic model Vans has in terms of structure and craftsmanship, and it truly adds that US collegiate style to any ensemble. The Authentic is named after the foundation shoe, which, in addition to skateboarding, was ideal for usage on boats like the Sperry Topsider.
Vans Berle Pro
Elijah Berle released his debut Vans Pro sneaker in 2019 only a few years ago. It debuts as a sleek, no-nonsense skate shoe with increased gum-wall reinforcements in hard-wearing frontal areas.
The model took the Pro signature range of sneakers even further away from the more traditional Vans style. Vans Luxliner bootie structure provides maximum stability and comfort for a snug, close fit.
Vans Gilbert Crockett 2 Pro
Gilbert Crockett is a Virginia-based Vans professional skater who is now on his second Vans Pro model. The Gilbert Crockett 2 is distinguished from other Vans by its Waffle Cup structure, a cupsole that provides the feel and grip of a vulcanized shoe.
It was custom-made to Gilbert’s specifications, with canvas, suede, and leather accents. As a hallmark model, it has premium Vans technologies, including Duracap and PopCush.
The Sk8-Hi’s name says it all: it was created as a skate shoe with ankle protection and a taller structure. It rapidly became immensely popular and presented a distinct design to prior Vans, based mostly on the Old Skool silhouette and bearing over the Vans “Side Stripe.”
It’s undoubtedly the most distinctive Vans shoe in terms of appearance, standing out from Slip-Ons, Eras, and anything else on the market. It is still the highest model produced by Vans, and its one-of-a-kind uniqueness contributes to its continued popularity.
The Sk8-Low is a low-top and newer version of the Sk8-Hi. It’s similar to the Vans Half Cab narrative in that the Sk8-Hi was a little too high for certain skaters in the early 2000s, so Vans decreased its height and continued to deliver that design in a low version. It has the same features as the Sk8-Hi, but with less ankle protection and more movement for those skaters who choose ankle flexibility over ankle protection.
Vans Half Cab
The Half Cab was initially a high-top intended as a Steve Caballero pro signature model and released in 1992 under the name “Caballero.” Originally intended for vert skating, Caballero’s preferred style, it quickly found its way to the streets as the early 1990s saw an explosion of street skateboarding, ushering in more technical tricks than vert or pool skating.
Also, the high-top was a thing of the 1980s; in the 1990s, kids wanted lower, and skaters all over the world began cutting down their Cab shoes to create a lower DIY version. Vans picked up on this, and soon after, the lower, renamed “Half-Cab” was born. This, too, is a reference to a fakie-180 ollie, which is half of the fakie-360 developed by Caballero and is more generally known as a “Cab.”
Vans Half Cabs have always been popular among skateboarders because they provide the fantastic grip and feel that all Vans do, thanks to the sticky gum “Waffle” sole and vulcanized construction. Half Cabs are also extremely durable, thanks to the various suede panels in the toebox and upper region, which provide excellent wear and protection while skating. Over thirty years of manufacturing, the style and shape have become iconic, and Half Cabs appear poised to remain a skate shoe of choice for multiple years to come.
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This style is another vintage Vans model that has become synonymous with the company. Since its conception in the late 1970s, the Slip-On has grown into an entity in and of itself and is probably the most famous laceless shoe of all time.
The most well-known variation is the black and white checkerboard pattern, ingrained in modern American culture. The vast frontal canvas area lends itself well to colors and prints, with many Slip-Ons including graphic prints, stripes, and various colors.
The central characteristic of the shoe is its comfort; with a one-piece canvas covering the entire front of the shoe, there are no places to cause problems with your feet. Furthermore, the ease of being a slip-on shoe indicates they are quick to put on and easy to wear, making slip-ons popular for vacation and beachwear. Because of their vulcanized construction and Waffle grip, they are also suitable for skating.
Despite its vintage vulcanized design and look, the Vans Lampin, or model #86, is a considerably more current Vans shoe than an Old Skool or an Era. It was Vans’ first shoe in a long time that harkened back to its roots in the 1960s and 1970s, and it was created to fit alongside Converse One Stars, Puma Suedes, and Adidas Superstars in a current streetwear style.
When they were initially released in 1993, the soft-suede offerings were enormously popular within their targeted street culture, being equally worn by surfers, Beastie Boys, and skaters. To this day, it remains a Vans Classic, with the Authentic, Sk8-Hi, Era, and Old Skool garnering all the limelight. Consider them if you want to commemorate the 1990s, which is why Slam City Skates and Supreme chose this model for their Vans collaborations.
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Vans Ultrarange is a pair of footwear designed for city exploration. They are somewhat beefier than Vans Classic shoes, built on an ultra-lightweight Pro Vulc Lite structure, and give all-day wear and comfort for any trip experience or city terrain. They are based on vintage Vans shoes and contain Rapidweld technology for greater water resistance between panels and Gore-Tex fabrics on some versions to take the shoes outdoors truly.
The LuxLiner inside sock construction improves fit and comfort by eliminating hotspots and friction. The Ultrarange Hi variations, such as the Ultrarange EXO Hi MTE, are designed for greater exploration of the great outdoors, with a hiking style and increased water repellency thanks to a shearling lining and leather construction for winter warmth. Consider the Ultrarange if you’re looking for an adventure shoe for city streets or even short excursions.
Vans AVE Pro
The AVE Pro is professional skateboarder Anthony Van Englan’s signature model. It was released in 2018 and incorporated a fusion of old Vans aesthetics, including the Side Stripe, with modern technologies such as bonded panels and a translucent UltimateWaffle sole unit for maximum grip, eliminating stitching and thus boosting durability. This is what Vans refers to as Rapidweld, and it is utilized in a variety of Vans products, including the Ultrarange, to improve resistance to snow and water.
The Vans AVE Pro debuted in an ice blue and clean white hue and quickly became their pinnacle skateboard shoe. Numerous colors have been released, including a Beatrice Domond-designed color and a Fucking Awesome collaboration.
They also include LuxLiner construction, an inside liner that runs from the tongue to the footbed and provides a secure feel and fit. It remains Vans’ most popular skate shoe to this day and should be on any list of potential skate shoes you are considering.
Vans Old Skool
The Vans Old Skool was the first shoe to include the “Side Stripe,” inspired by founder Paul Van Doren’s sketch and subsequently implemented into a shoe. While the Side Stripe was never as well-known as the Three Stripes or the Swoosh, it did help to distinguish the Sk8-Hi and Old Skool as uniquely Vans.
The Old Skool was the initial Vans shoe to use leather panels, specifically the toebox piece for longevity, carrying over the design idea from the Era and Authentic. Like all Vans Classic sneakers, the Old Skool is vulcanized and frequently features a canvas top and suede toe cap.
Vans Skate Sport
The Skate Sport style is a vintage-inspired shoe that conceals several technologies: the retro style houses what Vans calls StickStick, their soft gum rubber compound optimized for skating traction. Duracap underlays provide additional durability that is not visible. The new Skate Sport shoes are part of Vans’ new Classics range of skateboard shoes, which have had the molded heel counter, top, and tongue-straps completely redesigned to keep the foot locked in and stable.
Vans Chima 2 Pro
Chima Ferguson, another long-time Vans Pro rider from Australia, has had a signature Pro shoe since 2013. In 2018, Vans upgraded this style and released the Chima Pro 2. The Chima Pro 2 is a beautiful and pared-down retro-looking sneaker, but it holds the normal Vans Pro series level of technology.
Duracap underlays and Ultracush insoles are included. Its versatility is shown by the fact that it is suitable for any form of skating, from pools to streets and skateparks.
Vans Kyle Walker 2 Pro
Kyle Walker received his first pro shoe in 2016 after being named Thrasher Skater of the Year. This was updated in 2020 for the Kyle Walker Pro 2, which did away with the laces in favor of a simple one-strap velcro clasp. Kyle wanted to give his favorite Vans Slip-Ons a new spin, so he developed the simple closing and toughened up the heel counter and sidewalks for added durability.
It also has Vans’ WaffleCup structure, with the cupsole adding additional stiffness. It has a longer toe box for optimum toe movement, as well as Vans PopCush and Duracap.
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Because the distinction between the Authentic and the Era is subtle, many individuals may be unaware of it. The Era differs in that it has a padded collar around the top, which provided extra protection and padding for skateboarding during its release. The original Vans Era was not footwear expressly created for skateboarding but rather a sneaker that skaters took to.
Vans Rowan Pro
The Rowan Pro is pro skater Rowan Zorilla’s first signature model. It is a mid-top style shoe released in 2020 and is inspired by the Vans Half-Cab. As a signature shoe, it has Vans’ premium technologies such as StickStick, Duracap, and PopCush and is made of canvas and suede.
The skateable characteristics will be more than adequate, and this shoe will be both comfortable and long-lasting. The Rowan Pro is a new take on Pro sneakers, combining the classic Vans vintage aesthetic with a modern silhouette.
In particular, Geoff Rowley and this shoe were instrumental in reviving vintage Vans style. It was the first Pro shoe to truly embody Vans’ old-school nature, bringing vulcanized construction back to the skate industry, primarily cupsole at the time, with even Vans releasing fewer Classics. The Rowley was also low profile and incredibly small, in contrast to other skate shoes in the late 1990s, which were big and puffy.
When it was released in 1998, it also witnessed the return of the classic Vans Side Stripe. All backed up by Geoff’s excellent skateboarding, it has withstood the test of time, with only minor internal improvements and even more silhouette-slimming, bringing it up to date with today’s style and technology. It’s a true Vans classic that ranks in the top ten of all skate shoe hall of fame.