Omar Quiambao and the Vans Slip-On For Hypebeast's Sole Mates

The Commonwealth co-founder and streetwear industry veteran on why the humble laceless shoe is trend-proof — and a perfect choice for any occasion.

Footwear 
5,616 Hypes 1 Comments

You are reading your free article for this month.
Members-only

Omar Quiambao has been there, done that and seen everything under the sun in the world of streetwear and sneakers. He founded the influential boutique Commonwealth back in 2004, and today Commonwealth boasts locations in Virginia Beach, Washington DC, Los Angeles and Manila. Besides his rich retail roots, he’s also a project director and designer who’s worked with everyone from Stüssy and Anti Social Social Club to New Balance, PUMA and ASICS. However, through all the projects, productions and cultural changes, Quiambao keeps coming back to one sneaker: Vans‘ timeless Slip-On.

Quiambao has been wearing Slip-Ons since he was a skateboarding-obsessed kid growing up in Virginia Beach, and still loves them just as much today — if not more so. He describes them as a sneaker that’s democratic and accessible but still desirable, no small feat in today’s scarcity-driven market where the right collaborator or a high resell price can dictate taste moreso than the actual product itself. For his installment of Hypebeast’s Sole Mates series, Omar Quiambao discusses his decades of history with the humble, laceless model, why he thinks it’s been able to remain trend-proof while still being appealing and how the sneaker game has changed since he first set foot into it more than two decades ago.

Hypebeast: What got you into sneakers?

Omar Quiambao: Skateboarding. My older brother skateboarded, so naturally, I followed in his footsteps, started skating too and realized “I need to have specific sneakers to take part in this lifestyle.” Before that, “specific” footwear to me was stuff like baseball and soccer cleats, but skateboarding introduced me to Vans and I was off to the races.

Do you remember the first pair of Vans you had?

It was a pair of Old Skools, which were still known as the Style 36 back then. My friends and I called them “Jazz Vans” because of the Jazz stripe [Vans’ familiar swooping logo] on the side. They were really important to me — I’d only wear them for skating. I was breakdancing at the time as well, and when I’d go do that I’d take my Vans off and put on a pair of PUMA Suedes instead. Having the “right” shoes on for the right activity was super important to me.

“The Slip-On is a very practical style and a perfect example of a ‘less is more’ design ethos.”

The Old Skool was your first pair of Vans, but the Slip-On is your absolute favorite. What keeps you coming back to it?

It’s so pragmatic. The Slip-On is a very practical style and a perfect example of a “less is more” design ethos. Of course, there are times when the Slip-On is perfectly on trend — who can forget Frank Ocean wearing them to the White House, right? — but it exists outside of that trend pendulum.

It really is a timeless sneaker, isn’t it?

Yes, and it’s so versatile too. To this day, I still bring a pair of Slip-Ons with me when I travel. They’re easy to get through the airport, more than presentable enough to wear for a meeting and can fit into pretty much any lifestyle lane as well. I’m from the era where you wouldn’t get into a club if you were wearing “athletic footwear,” and even back then they’d let you in if you were rocking a pair of leather Slip-Ons.

“[The Slip-On] doesn’t give off an air of elitism. It’s affordable and accessible, and can’t be pigeonholed.”

You mentioned earlier that the Slip-On manages to exist outside the trend pendulum, but is still occasionally on-trend, and that’s reminiscent of Vans as a brand: they know what works for them and stick with it instead of chasing fads. Why is it so important for a brand to do that, and why have they done such a good job of it?

It helps that they have so many classics — shoes with decades and decades of history. Those shoes have earned the kind of prestige that can’t be “bought” and only comes with time. They do a great job of telling the stories of those classic shoes and are careful with brand partnerships around them. In the case of the Slip-On especially, part of the reason it’s so universal is that it doesn’t give off an air of elitism. It’s affordable and accessible, and can’t be pigeonholed. Sure, it’s associated with a West Coast lifestyle and skaters, but it’s involved in so many other subcultures as well — punk, hip-hop, streetwear, you name it.

It’s interesting that in our world — one that can be obsessed with exclusivity and value — a shoe that anyone can get, like the Slip-On, is still such an icon.

Exactly. That really speaks to how loved it is and how democratic it is.

How did it feel to go from a lifelong Slip-On wearer to a full-on collaborator on the model? [Commonwealth and Vans dropped co-created Slip-Ons and Eras in 2019]

It was really exciting. We wanted to make something that would be a staple for us, so the design process was centered around restraint and small nods to Vans history. We took off the toe bumper, changed the waffle sole out for a deck sole to salute the Van Doren Rubber Company and used a tiny version of the checkerboard pattern on the midsole foxing for a salute to where the original idea for Vans’ checkerboard print came from — kids drawing the pattern on their shoes by hand. It was a labor of love, and fortified my appreciation for the Slip-On.

What’s the biggest shift you’ve seen in sneakers since Commonwealth first opened?

The internet. It’s changed everything. Reselling first took off on eBay and now there are billion-dollar aftermarket businesses. Online drops and all the information that’s available online have opened the game up to a much wider audience. When I was coming up, you’d have to travel all over the world to see different shoes, learn their stories and even buy them. It’s crazy how much easier it is to participate now.

Do you think that level of accessibility is a good thing or a bad thing?

I think it’s just a change we have to get used to, man. As much as I like feeling like an individual, exclusivity is somewhat elitist. We just try to promote gratitude and appreciation — the latter of which isn’t so easy when everything feels so accessible, but that’s just part of the business. There are different levels of commitment in streetwear and sneaker fandom, just like in sports. You’ve got those people that love their teams through thick and thin and then you have the weekend warriors that just want to go to a game and enjoy themselves. As long as the proper appreciation for the culture is there, either way is fine!

Why are sneakers important to you?

Sneakers helped me love skating and breaking as a kid, and have led to a lot of fulfilling creative opportunities for me as an adult.

Read Full Article

What to Read Next

Kunichi Nomura and the TRIPSTER x Vans Authentic for Hypebeast's Sole Mates
Footwear 

Kunichi Nomura and the TRIPSTER x Vans Authentic for Hypebeast's Sole Mates

The creative polymath discusses his lifelong love of Vans, what makes the Authentic an ideal everyday style and what collaborating on it was like.

The Little Simz x Vans Slip-On Is an Instant Hit
Footwear 

The Little Simz x Vans Slip-On Is an Instant Hit

Her inaugural sneaker collaboration dons distorted checkered uppers.

Chris Chase and the Air Jordan 11 "Bred" for Hypebeast's Sole Mates
Footwear 

Chris Chase and the Air Jordan 11 "Bred" for Hypebeast's Sole Mates

The WearTesters co-founder (AKA Nightwing2303) discusses the lifelong connection to sport provided by shoes, why performance footwear doesn’t have the cultural cachet it used to and more.


Antonio Ciongoli and the Mephisto Rainbow for Hypebeast's Sole Mates
Footwear 

Antonio Ciongoli and the Mephisto Rainbow for Hypebeast's Sole Mates

18 East’s founder and creative director discusses his love of Mephisto’s luxurious-yet-practical ethos, the importance of products that don’t have a “shelf life,” the lifelong influence of skateboarding on his design practice and more.

Riot Games Sues NetEase Over Alleged “Copy” of ‘Valorant’
Gaming

Riot Games Sues NetEase Over Alleged “Copy” of ‘Valorant’

NetEase launched its own mobile shooter, ‘Hyper Front.’

Beyond Retro and Weekday Team Up to Offer Second-Hand Vintage and Archival Pieces
Fashion 

Beyond Retro and Weekday Team Up to Offer Second-Hand Vintage and Archival Pieces

Taking to London, Sheffield and the Nordic countries to also offer a buying-in service for your unwanted vintage items.

1990s Sportswear Meets Coziness for Clints' Next Drop
Fashion 

1990s Sportswear Meets Coziness for Clints' Next Drop

The Manchester-based brand offers mohair sweaters, a new pair of Steppers and more.

Givenchy Takes on the Humble Shopping Bag With $995 USD Tote
Fashion

Givenchy Takes on the Humble Shopping Bag With $995 USD Tote

Coming in mini and XL sizes.

Our Legacy WORK SHOP Creates Its Vans Sk8-Mid LX From Deadstock Materials
Footwear

Our Legacy WORK SHOP Creates Its Vans Sk8-Mid LX From Deadstock Materials

Before embroidering a Yin Yang logo into the heels.


Chanel Drops $1,150 USD Couture-ified Wellington Boots
Footwear

Chanel Drops $1,150 USD Couture-ified Wellington Boots

Wellies, but make them luxe.

Tiffany & Co. Drops $215,000 USD Pavé Diamond Race Car Clock
Design

Tiffany & Co. Drops $215,000 USD Pavé Diamond Race Car Clock

Don’t worry, the “Time For Speed” collection also presents a $40,000 USD sans-diamond version, too.

You Can Actually Buy Mercedes-AMG's GT2 Race Car
Automotive

You Can Actually Buy Mercedes-AMG's GT2 Race Car

The real-deal track toy has been re-made for amateur drivers.

Batman Revealed in New 'Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League' Trailer
Gaming

Batman Revealed in New 'Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League' Trailer

Honoring the late Kevin Conroy in his last project as Batman.

JJJJound Teases Maroon PUMA Suede Colorway
Footwear

JJJJound Teases Maroon PUMA Suede Colorway

As part of its China-exclusive FW22 range.

More ▾
 
We got you covered. Don’t miss out on the latest news by signing up for our newsletters.

By subscribing, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.