An ode to Vans on its 50th birthday
I was never a skateboarder, but as a Gen X-er, I obviously crushed hard on guys who were. I bought my first pair of Vans—low cut Old Skools in Grape Wine—in the summer of 1993 in New York City. At the time, my desire to own them was a combination of influences: skate culture through my younger brother, British indie music (Damon Albarn of Blur looked especially hot in them) and Sassy Magazine, which featured the sneakers on then-intern Chloe Sevigny. Over 20 years later, my affection for the sneakers hasn’t waned. I love how hi-cuts worn with a suit look on a dude—I would have been fine with my husband wearing them on our wedding day—and seeing them worn by hairstylist/former skateboarder Paul Hanlon backstage at fashion week sent my infatuation with him soaring into the stratosphere.
In 2012, Céline ripped off the brand’s classic slip-on sneaker, doing designer versions in python and pony skin. Saint Laurent and Givenchy followed suit, and suddenly, the style was being manufactured by everyone from Old Navy to Steve Madden. It was an annoying development for anyone who already wore Vans—just like when a great song is covered and the new version introduces it to the masses and becomes a bigger hit than the original. Because all you want to do is point out to anyone who will listen who did it first. As some sort of rebellion, I purposely only wore hi-cuts, refusing to take part in the trend. But soon the fashion world moved on to Adidas Stan Smiths, allowing me to resume my monogamous relationship with Vans. In fact, I just bought a new pair, white leather hi-cuts with black polka dots. But nothing is as satisfying as buying tiny Vans for your kids; a black and white checkered toddler-sized pair has been through both my daughter and son and are practically a family heirloom. I’d even consider bronzing them.
To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Vans is hosting pop-up in 10 cities around the world (in Toronto, it’s at 950 Dupont Street) until April 2nd, which feature skateboard demos, photography of iconic moments and retrospective displays featuring archival shoes and their original boxes (the best part, tbh). Obviously I was already there.