Vans Celebrates One of Its Most Iconic Shoes With a History Lesson

Vans turned back time to 1976, just 10 years after the brand was born and at the start of one of the most influential periods in skateboarding and surf culture.

To celebrate its history, the Costa Mesa, Calif.-based label put the spotlight on the Era sneaker with an immersive 10-day pop-up in Venice that wrapped on Sunday. The event served as a tribute to Venice-based skaters Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta, who at the time helped Vans develop the earliest iteration of the Era. Along with the activation, Vans transformed one of its stores in Santa Monica into another outpost devoted to the skating silhouette.

Vans Era
The history of the Vans Era shoe on display.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Vans/Celina Kenyon
vans era sneakers, shoes
Vans Era shoes on display.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Vans/Celina Kenyon

The activation was free and open to the public, complete with skating ramps, spaces that told the history of skateboarding and the shoes that helped shape the sport. The pop-up space had museum-like vibes with vintage posters and retro shoes on display.

And the same treatment was given in tandem to its reworked retail space in Santa Monica, where Carly Gomez, senior director of marketing, shared the brand’s strategy.

vans era sneakers, shoes
A skate ramp featured at a Vans retail store takeover celebrating the Era.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Vans/Celina Kenyon

“You’re coming in as a consumer where you think you’re just shopping and then you get this unique experience and learn about the history of the styles,” Gomez explained of the activation, adding that it helped bring in foot traffic and introduced the silhouette to those who were expecting to see several of its other styles. 

“People are now discovering them — the Era has been around for years — but they’re now discovering the original Eras and trying them on for the first time or are now seeing our newer ComfyCush, which they may have not experienced in the past,” Gomez explained. “[The Era] is the hero style we’re focusing on for the entire year, and this was just a way to focus on it and to uplift it so consumers can see the influence of the Era, where it came from.”

“It’s another way to say here’s where we came from and here’s where we are today; it’s a new introduction for people who maybe didn’t know it and it’s a history lesson for people that did and didn’t know why or how the Era was created.”

Gomez said sharing the heritage of the shoe is important to consumers so that they “understand how things are made and why things are made.”

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