Kevin Durant is a Nike basketball player. Rap standout Kanye West is aligned with Adidas. Reebok tapped California hip-hop star Kendrick Lamar to resurrect a classic sneaker franchise. Still, they continue to wear Vans.
And the aforementioned celebs are not alone in straying from brand affiliations to rock looks from the skate brand.
The broad acceptance of Vans from celebrities, and its penetration into street style, is a testament to its current cool factor. And the models people are buying today have been in the brand’s catalogue for decades; they are the not new, innovative styles that today’s top labels deliver to retail.
The excitement for Vans sneakers resulted in an 8 percent sales bump in Q2, its parent company VF Corp. reported in July.
But what’s the reason for this renewed and reinvigorated love for the label? Footwear News spoke with three boutique retail insiders — Extra Butter creative director Jason Fausinto, Packer Shoes owner Mike Packer and Lapstone & Hammer founder and creative director Brian Nadav — to find out.
Why, especially today, do people love Vans so much?
Brian Nadav: “Vans are classic, they are inexpensive and look better beat up. Kids today don’t need 100 pairs of sneakers in their closet. All you need is a trashed pair of Vans, a couple Yeezys, [Adidas] Boost and a few Nike and Jordans, and you’re set.”
Jason Faustino: “It’s the natural progression of things. The past couple years, it’s been all about ’90s runners, which were technical for the time and still comfortable today. And then there are modernized runners, which use Boost, Lunarlon and all the other technology out now. The more it’s got to the masses, the more it’s got overhyped, and people find themselves wanting to jump to the other end of the spectrum. The opposite of technology-driven footwear is basic vulcanized footwear. People are buying it to show they’re not part of that other stuff. The Vans Old Skool or checkerboard Slip-On is last year’s Yeezy Boost; everybody’s wearing them now. The only thing that’s different is, it’s easier to access in a way that doesn’t involve a lot of nonsense. If you can’t find a pair, you don’t have to go to a reseller or raffles or play with apps on your phone. You’re just waiting for a store to restock on shoes that have been out forever, and it’s not costing you nearly as much. The appeal makes perfect sense. It’s the direct opposite of the spectrum without it being Skechers- or Payless-type stuff.”
Mike Packer: “People today are so discerning; they want choices when they open up their closet. You have a customer that wants something different in their closet and not just a re-up on a Nike SKU or an Adidas SKU. At the end of the day, how many Jordans can somebody have? How many [Adidas] Ultra Boosts can somebody have? How many [Adidas] NMDs can somebody have? It gets to be repetitious. And Vans has always been that staple; it’s plain but has a little flavor to it, and you can wear it with anything.”
Is Vans having a special or defining moment in sneaker culture right now?
BN: “I would say Vans right now, more than ever, is appealing and being consumed by everyone across all demographics, regardless of race, class or age. Vans has always been a skate brand and has always been worn by people associated with street or skate culture. Today, Vans are being worn by everyone. So yes, I would say Vans is having a defining moment right now.”
JF: “Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s almost like anti what everything else is about. Those names you mentioned [Lamar and Durant], combined with the people that are directly influenced and follow those athletes and celebrities, that translation is going to make things turn again. The next time Durant or Kendrick is getting off of a plane, they will not want to be in Vans. It’s not going to be tomorrow, but these things happen sooner than they used to.”
MP: “No, I think it’s always been there. I just think it’s a little more pronounced right now. Everything is cyclical, but this has always been a staple and will continue to be a staple.”
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