Introducing Style #98
Originally known as ”Style #98,” the shoe that was later to be dubbed as the internationally recognized Vans Classic Slip-On quickly found its feet firmly planted in the Southern Californian budding skate and BMX scene of the late ’70s. Today the Slip-On continues to reign as the brands most iconic silhouette. What we’re aiming to explore is whether this simple yet epochal silhouette to the brand — which obviously stood the test of time to today — can continue as an inspiration for the future. The style was introduced in 1977 and quickly became the solution to the culture’s insistence for something to wear without fuss, yet hold up to the battering and abuse dealt by the nature of extreme sports. It was a no-brainer for skaters and riders to look towards Vans as the answer to their problem, all in thanks to its then decade worth of experience and respect in producing arguably the world’s best all-around extreme sports footwear products. The company was not without other silhouettes that resonated strongly throughout the skate and BMX scene. A year prior to the Slip-On there was Style #95, or as you know it today, the “Era.” More notably, there was Style #44: the “Authentic,” Vans’ original hallmark offering that cemented its name on to boards and bike peddles all across the West Coast, then the world over.
Less is More
Vans’ reputation as a shoe maker proceeded the brand initially within the skate and BMX culture due to its construction and most famously the innovation of it waffle-sole that set the bar for board-feel, grip and durability. This was the aim of the game for Paul Van Doran, the brands founder, along with his two brothers that helped kick-start the company back in ‘66. What they didn’t expect was the level of lifestyle appeal the small family business would then ensue. From an exclusive audience of rebel skaters and extremists, the brand now caters to everyone from Disney enthusiasts to streetwear staples to a myriad of other fashion brands, notable individuals and major franchises. The Vans Classic Slip-On was the pioneer for the brands catapult into lifestyle wear, which made sense as its silhouette inspiration came not from extreme sports, but from the humble boat shoe, a product on the line at Van Doren’s old company before he started Vans. Initially, the Slip-On rocked a boat shoe sole unit, but quickly adopted a more skate-appropriate build out with a heel counter and collar padding taken from the “Era,” as well as the waffle sole which in turn created the shoe we know today. The Slip-On quickly gained traction with the help of unexpected marketing, and the fact that you didn’t need to skate or ride to feel like you deserved a pair. Think Sean Penn in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, where he was seen sporting a pair of black and white checkered Stlye #98s — the movie also subsequently helped lock the checkered design down as the brands most synonymous patterning. Interestingly, the checkered design stemmed from Paul Van Doren witnessing kids customizing the white rubber foxing of their own pair of Vans with checkers, which he later tried to emulate but eventually landed the design on the canvas upper.
As we break the Vans Classic Slip-On down to its bare essentials, it becomes incredibly apparent how basic its make-up is, not to say that wan’t fairly obvious from looking at the refreshingly simple design of the shoe itself. Each shoe comprises 18 individual pieces that are sewn, glued and heat-treated together to create the Style #98. In essence, the Slip-On constitutes three main upper sections: the vamp, the quarter and the heel counter. All this rest on Vans’ classic waffle sole unit held in place by the skate shoe’s synonymous thick rubber foxing. All three parts of the upper offer themselves up for a potential cascade of designs and patterns, with an endless number of different style options that can be customized by anyone. Take Steve Van Doren for example. The Slip-On remains as Steve’s favorite style, with almost every version he owns made customized exclusively for him. There’s something noteworthy when the VP of Events and Promotions at Vans and son of founder Paul Van Doren relishes this much in his own product.
A Timeless Classic
To conclude, it’s safe to reiterate that the Vans Classic Slip-On has maintained its standing within the sports and lifestyle cultures since its inception back in ‘77; the style remains as a top 5 seller since its introduction. With the likes of designer Takashi Murakami also favoring the silhouette — Murakami opted for six Slip-On interpretations for adults and three colorway options for kids for his Vault Collaboration – as well as the fact that the Slip-On is the most commonly reinterpreted style by other brands, we can rest easy knowing that our own pairs of Vans Classic Slip-On will not be falling off anytime soon, if at all.