Vans 101 & Vans Sizing Guide
The ultimate guide to Vans Shoes. Legendary Vans skateboarders, iconic skate shoes, cleaning tips and an essential Vans sizing guide.
Vans are widely recognised as the world's best at creating skateboarding shoes. However, the story of Vans since its inception in 1966 has not always been straightforward. In our ultimate guide to Vans shoes, we review the skate shoe company's roots, iconic silhouettes and famous athletes. We even include a Vans sizing guide and Vans cleaning tips to make sure your Vans shoes fit well and always look their best.
ORIGINS OF VANS
A Brief History Of Vans
Vans is a skateboarding shoe and apparel brand based in Anaheim, California. The company’s origins may be traced back all the way to 1966, when brothers Paul and Jim van Doren established their company named “The Van Doren Rubber Company”.
The very first Vans shoes, the Authentic, which was known as #44 back then, was sold for only 4.99USD. According to accounts, on their first day in business, the brothers sold shoes made from scratch to 12 clients, all of whom had their pairs available for pickup that afternoon.
Within a few years, skate culture had accepted Vans as the skate shoe of choice.
During its first decade in operation, Vans took minor creative advances. Following consumer concerns that the diamond tread of its shoes fractured along the outsole, the business produced the proprietary waffle sole for enhanced durability.
Vans was miles ahead of its competitors in terms of customisation and personalisation.
Customers could essentially produce and design their own shoes because the manufacturing and sales were so closely knit. If buyers were to bring in a viable material, the company wouldn’t hesitate to manufacture a one-of-a-kind pair immediately.
A Shift To Skateboarding
Despite the innovations and advancements, the company was barely keeping afloat for its first decade in operations. This was until it established itself in the mid-1970s by venturing into the skateboarding scene.
By the mid-1970s, skateboarding had become a cultural phenomenon and youths of all ages were picking it up.
Vans took note and began scouting men like Stacy Peralta, Tony Alva, and Jerry Valdez— all three of whom would go on to become icons of the sport — and hooking them up with sneakers. Van Doren regarded it as a simple trade-off. A pair of complimentary shoes for the boys in return for access to an entirely new community. The partnership flourished even further when Vans released the classic Era silhouette which was designed by Alva and Peralta.
Further customer-driven innovations and demands resulted in the debut of the popular “Old Skool” and “Classic Slip-Ons” in 1977, which became an instant hit in fields outside of skateboarding too. The following year, Vans introduced the “Sk8-Hi,” the first high-top developed specifically for skateboarding, with extra cushioning and support at and above the ankle.
Modern Shoe Technology
To keep up with modern times, other technologies were created by Vans to improve performance, comfort, and durability in traditional shoes as well as pro skate variants. For instance, SICKSTICK, which is an innovative rubber composition provided better grip and durability to the outsoles. Vans also developed the first-ever cupsole, WAFFLECUP, which offers support and improved board feel and grip. And there are loads more innovations which have been made as technology improved over time.
WHO’S WORN VANS?
Throughout the decades, countless celebrities, athletes, and public figures have donned the iconic sneakers from Vans. And who could blame them?
Could there possibly be anyone else that defines skateboarding? No, we don’t think so. Recognised for his imaginative, trick-based vert skateboarding style, Hawk was undersized compared to other skateboarders and had to make up for his limitations with innovative manoeuvres.
In what is a now-iconic shot, Tony Hawk was photographed resting on his skateboard inside a drainage pipe in 1983 with Vans Classic Slip-Ons on his feet. When interviewed years later after restaging the shot, Hawk mentions, “The attitude is exactly the same, I’ve come so far between those two [photos], but the sense of values is exactly the same: do it yourself and bend the rules.” A statement that harmonises with Vans, as it is a company that carves its own identity.
Tony Alva brought a radically new and strong free form surf style to skating, influenced by the new, aggressive surfing style developing on the Hawaiian Islands. Tony’s style was ground-breaking, and it stood in sharp contrast to the era’s artificial conventional style developed in the 1960s.
Alva began his lengthy association with Vans in 1974, when he assisted with the creation of the original skate shoe, the “Era”. Since then, he has continued to remain as part of the Vans team, spreading values to the younger generation of skateboarders.
Dane Reynolds is a professional American surfer from Ventura, California He is well-known for his “go for broke” surfing style, which incorporates several experimental and airborne manoeuvres. Dane Reynolds’ technical approach is raw, forceful, and progressive, and it was perfected in the globally renowned point breaks that surround his birthplace of Ventura, CA.
Reynolds is an artist both on and off his surfboard, and his improvisational approach can be seen in his artwork, graphics, customised boards, and amateur surf films. Reynolds’ creative surf character continues to push the sport’s boundaries, making him one of the best free surfing talents to date.
Dennis Enarson is a professional BMX rider who is well-known for his cannonball barspins and ability to adapt to any street, park, or dirt track. There are street and transition riders, trick and flow riders, beefy and technical riders. It’s uncommon for a single rider to be all those characteristics, but Dennis is one of them. His skill traits are what Vans is all about, an all-rounder that could be used for any occasion.
Vans are also a hit in the world of the rich and famous. On multiple occasions, Canadian singer, Justin Bieber, has been spotted rocking Vans both on and off-stage. Wearing the likes of the classic checkerboard slip-ons to the funkier Vans x Odd Future Old Skool Pro sneakers.
ICONIC VANS STYLES
Initially known as model #36, the Old Skool is probably the most recognisable Vans worldwide. The Old Skool was the first model to don the famous ‘Vans Sidestripe’, which changed the company’s fate forever. It is crazy to think that it all began with a spontaneous doodle by Paul Van Doren. Fast forward to now, it’s what makes Vans so memorable for everyone. The Old Skool was also Vans’ first skate shoe with leather panels to increase durability.
The Era was created with skateboarding in mind. Cushioned collars were introduced to increase comfort and a variety of colour combos were designed by Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta to meet the trend of the colourful 70s. With Alva and Peralta, the Vans Era became the sneaker of a generation among skateboarders all around the world.
Initially designated as Style #98, this shoe would eventually be known as the critically acclaimed Classic Slip-Ons. This silhouette quickly gained traction in the late 1970s amongst the Californian youth, especially those involved with skate and BMX. The Slip-Ons also gave birth to one of the most iconic Van designs, the “Checkerboard” pattern.
The shoe where it all began. Vans “Authentic” is a sneaker that is as plain and modest as they get. There are no extraneous motifs, and it’s a piece of footwear that offers a cool factor without trying. Its durable canvas and waffle rubber soles provide just the right amount of comfort and grip for every user (especially skateboarders).
The SK8-Hi debuted all the way back in 1978, as #38. This shoe was the second model to have the distinctive “Vans Sidestripe” and it elevated skate functionality above the ankle, where skateboarders used and damaged their lower extremities the most. The SK8-Hi does not only give protection but it also provided an aesthetic never seen before in skateboarding shoes.
BEST VANS COLOURWAYS
Vans Classic Slip-On Checkerboard
The checkerboard— which has since become a lasting icon, began its narrative in 1977, with the Classic Slip-Ons. Steve Van Doren witnessed skaters painting the rubber midsole of their shoes with black markers to create a checkerboard pattern. Steve expanded on this concept, transferring the design to the canvas upper to produce the unmistakable appearance. Checkerboard patterning has grown to signify many things for many different individuals, beyond just a simple top on shoes.
The checkerboard design came to symbolise the breaking down of racial boundaries during a politically tense era.
Vans Old Skool Flame
It’s safe to say that this is the most LIT colourway of all. The Vans Old Skool “Flame” is a basic shoe with an eye-catching hue. The eye-catching flame graphic design elevates an already classic shape to new heights. When you combine it with the comparatively low price of $60 USD, you have a shoe that will survive the test of time.
Vans Old Skool Black/White
Collaborations have been an important element of the Old Skool’s history. Those early collaborations with Supreme and Marc Jacobs laid the groundwork for a slew of others. Despite that, the Old Skool’s simplicity is what makes them wonderful. There’s just something about the black/white colourway that is so basic yet so appealing.
Vans Era 95 DX x Fear Of God Black/White
Fear of God, a LA-based streetwear label founded by American designer Jerry Lorenzo, collaborated with Vans in 2017 and it was a resounding success (quick check on secondary market prices should verify the claim). The high-end streetwear label put its own twist onto a variety of shoes, including the Era 95 DX, resulting in a project with an outlandish price tag for the simple canvas sneaker.
Vans x Star Wars
Of course, we can’t overlook this collab. Vans is well-known for jumping on the movie bandwagon, after all, it’s never wrong to tap into a fanatic fanbase. This was an intriguing take on the movie series, which featured the likes of Yoda, the Stormtroopers, and the classic Star Wars Return of the Jedi Poster. The collection is available in Van favourites including Era, Slip-On, Half Cab, and Sk8-Hi.
Vans x Supreme x Public Enemy
Supreme collaborated with the legendary hip-hop group Public Enemy to offer two colourways of the Sk8-Hi in 2006.
The artwork is inspired by Public Enemy’s legendary album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. According to reports, Public Enemy frontman Chuck D handled every element of the sneaker’s design. These were released alongside matching clothing and even a skateboard deck. Over a decade later, this cooperation continues to hold a particular position in Supreme’s illustrious history.
Vault By Vans
“Vault by Vans” is a premium offering by the company that competes with NikeLab and adidas Consortium. Originally conceived in 2003, its catalogue is offered through a limited network of retailing partners worldwide. Since then, the label has grown into committed into a full-fledged offering of luxury footwear and gear.
This move allowed the company to focus on its archival designs while also cooperating with renowned fashion designers and artists. Products released under this subdivision is very limited, typically in the hundreds at any given time, a negligible quantity in comparison to its daily production.
Vault’s offering is clearly laid out into different categories. The first being their collaborations, which are easily the most popular offering of the label. Over the years, they’ve worked together with big names such as The North Face and Stussy, but they’ve also tapped into smaller brands such as Patta and Blends.
Recreating Vans’ historical styles has also been one of their goals. Generally, they will release the designs to coincide with silhouette’s anniversary or right before they return to the main production.
Vault has been responsible for resurrecting multiple models including Style 36, the Prison Issue and Half Cabs.
Finally, Vault’s ongoing collaboration with acclaimed designer Taka Hayashi wraps it all up. Hayashi joined Vans in 2008 before moving on to Vault. Hayashi’s seasonal collections have been the foundation of Vault’s DNA, helping to distinguish it from the rest of Vans’ offering
VANS SIZING GUIDE
The million dollars question we ask ourselves whenever we want to purchase a shoe, “How does it fit?” and “What sizes are available”? Well, Vans shoes would come in half sizes up until UK11 and over, which are exclusively available in full sizes.
Vans Size Chart : Mens Footwear
*Size conversions are approximate. Length in centimetres (cm). UK, EU and USA sizes are shown. More Vans size charts here.
How Do Vans Fit?
Vans sneakers are typically true to size, however, according to the experience of multiple users online, they do fit slightly tighter than most other casual sneakers. Despite it being tighter, it is not enough to go for a change in size, it is just a subtle difference that is noticeable. A skateboarding shoe should provide the highest level of safety and cushion for whoever is wearing it. However, if you aim to have a looser and more comfortable fit, you may grab sizes slightly larger than your original one.
Popular Vans Sizing Questions
How do Vans fit for those with Wide Feet?
According to Vans themselves, their shoes are designed to fit snug. Therefore, they recommend going a half size to one size up for maximum comfort. If you normally wear a larger size (UK11 above) and are in between two sizes, we recommend ordering a size up. For instance, if you normally wear a UK 11.5, go up half a size and get a UK 12.
How do Vans Classic Slip-Ons fit? And how do they compare to other sneakers?
Vans slip-on sneakers run true to size; they feature a tight, comfortable fit. One thing to keep in mind here is that you need a “snug fit” to ensure that they won’t fall off your feet. Therefore, it is suggested to stick with your original size for the perfect purchase.
Comparison to Nike Air Max, Adidas Superstars and Converse Chucks: When compared to the Nike Air Max, the Slip-ons do fit a tad tighter. However, this is also due to the Nike Air Max being typically looser than many other sneakers. Just like the Nike Air Max, the Superstars fit looser than the Vans Slip-on Shoes, albeit very slightly that you shouldn’t go about changing your size. But there is a subtle difference. As for the Converse Chuck Taylors, there is a significant discrepancy in size between these two shoes. Converse Chuck Taylors are at least a half size larger.
How do Vans Old Skool fit? How do they compare with other sneakers?
Vans size has been quite constant throughout all the sneakers in their collection. These Old Skool sneakers adhere to the trend of being true-to-size. Once again, it’s best to remain to your original size.
Comparison to Nike Air Max, Adidas Superstars and Converse Chucks: Just like the Slip-ons, the Old Skool fits smaller compared to the Converse Chucks. Therefore, it is recommended to go a half down from the Chucks. This would also be the case if you were jumping from the Nike Air Max unless you’d like a looser fit (which you should stick true to size). However, stick to your original size if compared with the Adidas Superstars.
How do Vans Authentic fit?
Yet again, these Vans have a snug fit due to the performance nature expected of them. If you have broad feet, be sure you get a wide size. As for how it compares to other sneakers, it would be the same as the Vans Old Skool.
How To Clean Your Vans Shoes?
General Rule of Cleaning
In order to start cleaning sneakers, you’d typically need 6 items. Namely, they are towel, brush, microfiber cloth, cleaning solution, a bowl of warm water and a toothbrush (optional). To begin, you should remove any visible dirt. This may be done using any clean cloth. Getting into the habit of scrubbing your shoes helps to prevent build-up.
Secondly, rinse your soles on a regular basis. Little debris/particles would always get trapped on the bottoms of your shoes even on clean surfaces. Finally, any large stains should be spot cleaned. If the stain is significant enough, quickly dab it with a soap and water mixture to remove it.
Cleaning Vans shoes made of Canvas
Generally, canvas sneakers are very durable but could get very dirty over time. To get them cleaned, we recommend mixing the cleaning solution with warm water and applying it to a toothbrush. Scrub the canvas clean with the toothbrush and dry them before wiping any hardened particles.
Cleaning Vans shoes made of Leather
Leather is a very sensitive material; poor cleaning could end up damaging the sneaker. Therefore, you should use a soft brush or damp towel to clean the dirt from them. Remember to soak the towel in a mixture of warm water and cleaning solution. If your shoes are white, you may clean them with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.
What Is House Of Vans?
House of Vans is a place where Vans hope the “Off The Wall” mentality thrives. Which allows for your creativity to run wild through mediums such as music, art, sports and street culture. All facilities within the compound are meant to push the limits of our modern culture to create history. Currently, there are locations throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.
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