Vans Old-Skools Are Still the Ones to Beat

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There’s a moment early on in every menswear enthusiast’s life when he feels like he’s settled on the rough draft of what he’ll wear for the rest of his sad, miserable existence. This is it, man, our fresh-faced aficionado thinks to himself. I finally cracked it! The moment is often premature. It lasts about as long as it takes for you to see something else you absolutely need to have, even if it means abruptly crumpling up the draft you were working on, grabbing a fresh sheet of paper, and starting from scratch. (And then waiting for the whole vicious cycle to start all over again.)

Maybe that’s not how it is for everyone, but that’s how it is for me. And the very first time I experienced The Moment directly involved a pair of Vans OG Old Skool LXs, the only shoes I’ve ever worn for a full year straight and still one of the best damn sneakers on the market today. If you’re looking to figure out how the fuck you want to dress now—and going forward—you could do far worse than the canonical style the Van Doren brothers introduced to the West Coast skating scene in the late ’70s.

Suede inserts by the toe-box make for a low-key luxe feel.

Allie Holloway

They walk the walk (and run the run.)

If you pressed me to name five sneakers every dude should have in his regular rotation I could probably come up with a good ten names or so and convincing arguments to go along with each. But out of all of ’em, the Old Skool might be the one I’d most wholeheartedly endorse. See, that’s the thing about the Old Skool: It walks the walk. (And runs the run. And bikes the bike.) You hear a lot of shit talked online about how “inherently versatile” certain sneakers are, how you can wear them with your “sharpest suit” or with your “slouchiest pair of sweats.” Sometimes it’s true, and sometimes—shocker!—it really isn’t. But the Old Skool? Man, the Old Skool is that sneaker. It fucks. And if you’re not rocking it absolutely everywhere you go this summer you’re doing its eminently wearable silhouette a grave disservice.

The distinctive rubber soles skaters the world over still swear by.

Allie Holloway

They can stand up to anything you throw at ’em.

Because the Old Skools can take a beating, dude. I should know. The entirety of my sophomore year in college was dedicated to thrashing the shit out of my inaugural pair, the sneakers I thought I’d be wearing for the rest of my damn life. (The year before I did the same thing to a pair of retro-inspired Chuck Taylors 70s and the year after I would begin the process again with a pair of black-toe AJ1s, so I guess what I’m saying is I probably should’ve known better.)

I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on clothing, or a lot of time getting dressed, and the Old Skool was the ideal choice for a kid deeply-invested in the nuances of men’s clothing but still figuring out how that particular narrative theme fit within the larger story of his developing identity. Worn with wider-legged cropped pants, a baggy graphic tee, and, say, a sweat-soaked five-panel, the Old Skools slotted neatly into the post-prep, skater-inflected world of menswear I graduated into—one hungry for a degree of authenticity conspicuously absent in the soulless designer sneakers churned out en masse by high-end fashion houses each season.

Stamped with the OG Van Doren seal of approval.

Allie Holloway

They’ll restore your faith in sneakers. I guarantee it.

The Old Skool fucks, but it doesn’t fuck around. It seems basic, and in a way it is. That’s part of its appeal. The silhouette itself has barely changed since it was first introduced close to fifty years ago. And sure, the regular Old Skool is about as classic a design as they come, but the OG Old Skool LX, with its slightly thicker sole and premium details, improves on an already near-perfect masterpiece. If you’ve been feeling down on sneakers lately it’s the silhouette that’ll restore your faith in the whole damn genre of footwear, end of story.

When I went home a few months ago to see the family and stock up on toilet paper, I happened to open my closet to track down something or other I couldn’t bear throwing out entirely. There, tucked away in the corner slowly gathering dust, were the Old Skools I wore so devotedly throughout that formative sophomore year. Still scuffed as all hell. Still beat to shit. Still about as good a sneaker as it gets.

Reader, I snagged them on the way out. It’s about time I bust ’em out again. Something tells me I’m due for another moment.

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Photography and prop styling by Allie Holloway