Slip On Vans, A Short History | ParadeWorld

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Slip On Vans, A Short History

Just how did Slip On Vans become so popular? Here's a handy explainer…

Slip On Vans, A Short History
Posted by Matthew Broadley4 min read
Monday, April 08, 2019

Slip On Vans first came to be in 1977, known at the time as the Style #98, the popularity of the shoe has endured for well over 40 years. After its inception, the Slip On quickly gained popularity amongst Southern California’s exploding skateboard scene. Led by the likes of Stacey Peralta and Tony Alva.

It was the Slip On Vans simplicity that endeared it to skateboarders, that and the robust grippy waffle soles ability to stand up to the abuse administered to it in the act of skateboarding, the waffle sole, of course, has become a Vans staple - providing board feel, grip, and durability.

Vans had previously gained respect from the burgeoning skateboarding world, in 1976 they worked with the aforementioned Stacey Peralta and Tony Alva to develop the Vans style #95 - now commonly known as the Era, which too remains incredibly popular today. So it’s little surprise that the newly released Slip On was taken up with similar fervour.

Initially, the Slip On Vans were based more on a boat shoe silhouette but soon adopted a more similar build to the previously mentioned Era. Utilising the Era’s more skateboard friendly heel and padded collar.

It was a little later, however, that Vans began its journey to becoming the well-known lifestyle brand that it is today. Indeed this was largely down to good fortune more than anything else. In the late 1970’s Steve Van Doren, the current Vans Vice President and son of founder Paul Van Doren noticed that some skateboarders had begun colouring the rubber midsoles of their Vans shoes - creating a checkerboard effect. Steve developed this idea further, and they began creating Slip On Vans with the checkerboard pattern on the canvas.

In a fortunate twist on Van's behalf, Sean Penn, who was filming for Fast Times at Ridgemont High, happened to come into their Santa Monica store and purchased a pair of the checkerboard Slip On Vans. From there Universal Studios made contact with Vans PR manager at the time, a lady named Betty Mitchell, and requested Betty send a couple of dozen pairs down to the set. Penn’s cult slacker character Jeff Spiccoli wore the checkerboard Slip Ons throughout the film, and the shoes also appeared in some of the films’ promotional material.

This unexpected marketing boost allowed Vans to reach a far wider audience than they ever had previously, requests for the checkerboard Slip On skyrocketed. Its appearance in the film almost single-handedly cementing the checkerboard Slip Ons ubiquitousness in popular culture.

Fast forward to the modern day and you will of course still find various colourways of the Vans Slip On on the shelves of skate shops the world over. The shoe itself has naturally undergone some technical upgrades, though still maintains the simplicity that made it so popular amongst skateboarders in the first place.

Vans Slip On Pro, the model you’ll find in skate shops, now come complete with Vans UltraCush sock liners - these are designed to keep the foot close to the board, without packing out over time. The shoe now also features Vans’ DURACAP rubber underlays, these are positioned in traditionally high wear areas, enabling the shoes to stand up to the abuse they’re put under by modern-day skateboarding.

The Slip On Vans legacy is plain to see, to put it simply, look how many other slip ons there are on the market - pretty much every major shoe brand has one. Nike SB has recently re-imagined their hugely popular Janoski shoe into a slip on version. Adidas Skateboarding similarly adapted their Matchcourt shoe into a slip on, albeit a far slimmer, sleeker-looking silhouette providing a fresh take. Converse skate shoes have the Slip On CC which looks to be the best of the bunch. Supra's homage, the Cuba, is much closer to the Slip On Vans model, but adds the option of a shoelace for a slightly tighter fit around the ankle, should that be your thing. The short-lived Diamond Footwear even had a go, with Boo Johnson's pro model almost certainly taking its lead from the Vans shoe.

The Slip On Vans is the shoe of choice for many of today’s top pros, here's a small Parade selection of some of our favourites repping this silhouette:

Dan Drehobl in 'Krooked Kronichles'

Dan Drehobl, AKA Cancer Dan due to his love of a lunger, can be seen repping Slip On Vans at various points during this exceptional part. You can’t really go wrong with Neil Diamond on the track and Dan on the transition, a very fine piece of work indeed.

Austin Kanfoush in 'The World Is Our Garbage Can'

For those in any doubt as to whether such a simple shoe can stand up to heavy abuse, check this Austin Kanfoush part, imagine what his shoes go through each and every session!

Andrew Allen in 'Hockey II'

Andrew Allen absolutely loves a slip on, there are few modern skateboarders as closely associated with the silhouette than A.A. Catch him putting them to good use in Hockey II. Andrew has also received a Slip On Pro colourway.

Dylan Rieder in 'Mind Field'

One of skateboarding’s most stylish - in the fashion sense and the skateboard sense - Dylan Rieder was partial to a pair Slip On Vans, as evidenced in his superb part from the Alien Workshop opus Mind Field. It could also be argued the Slip On was an inspiration behind both his Gravis and HUF pro shoes.

Dustin Henry, Etienne Gagne, Ben Blundell for Alltimers

Along with Dime, Alltimers have been one of the major driving forces behind Canada's continuing 'moment' in skateboarding. Dustin, E.T and Ben regularly rep the Slip On Vans, as seen here in 'My Alltimers', as well as their various other video parts. Grab yourself from trackie bottoms and some Slip Ons to get that authentic Alltimers steeze.

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