Fashion & Footwear April 20th, 2016

The Vans Counterculture: 50 Years In the Making

The classic low-profile silhouette: the unmistakable side stripe.

Early Vans styles, such as the Authentic, the Era, the Slip-On and the Old Skool, are more than iconic: they represent a lifestyle. Once synonymous with West Coast surf and skate style, Vans footwear grew momentum and their brand of skate-ready footwear permeated throughout all backgrounds and into pop culture.

Founded in 1966, Vans was once a simple shoe company that produced vulcanized footwear for those who embraced the California lifestyle. Decades later, Vans’ iconic style has yet to skip a beat. The old adage is oftentimes true: "If ain't broke, don’t fix it." In the case of Vans, a new pair of Authentics looks as cool on your feet today as they did on generations that came before. A young skater might not know or even care that Stacy Peralta, an industry demigod, wore the same style shoe 40 years ago. But a rich history and timeline offers an almost unmatched heritage in extreme sports and surrounding cultures.

Although it’s hard to pinpoint the exact time Vans ushered itself into the pantheon of all-time coolness, there are strong cases to be made that they cemented their place years ago. Appearing on the feet of countless legendary skaters, iconic musicians, BMX riders and classic movie characters, the list goes on and on. From “Dogtown and Z-Boyz” to “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” there are those key moments that you just know the "Off the Wall" brand was the it shoe. Perhaps the unofficial shoe of youth culture, every well-rounded wardrobe needs a pair of the Core Classics in the mix, even if you’ve outgrown the "youth" tag a few years ago.

The skate, surf and BMX world embraced Vans almost immediately from its early days. In the early ’80s, musicians that paved the way for the American underground also backed the brand. For some skateboarders in those days, punk rock became the soundtrack to their lives. As punk rock turned into hardcore punk and the sound got faster and more aggressive, it only seemed natural that disaffected youth from across Southern California would hang up their boards at night and head to punk shows to find a catalyst for their angst. Skateboarding and punk rock seemed to go hand-in-hand with several of the hardcore, early classic punk bands.

Although boots might have been a tougher look for punk, you couldn't skate in them, so styles like the SK8-Hi and Old Skool became common. Legendary front men, including Henry Rollins of Black Flag and Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat, could often been seen sporting early Vans styles. For skateboarders, Vans served a utilitarian function and always looked solid off the board as well.

Other seminal bands that featured skateboarders were the Big Boys, JFA, The Faction, RKL, Gang Green, Suicidal Tendencies, Agent Orange, Los Olvidados and Boneless Ones. By the mid-’80s, skate and punk culture melded seamlessly with the emergence of "Skate Rock," with several compilations being released by Thrasher magazine.

The ’90s saw Vans continue its growth and force in the skate world. By 1995, music and skate culture collided with the start of the Vans Warped Tour. While initially centered around popular punk bands of the time, the tour eventually expanded to be a more diverse event, showcasing other styles of music such as ska, metalcore, hip-hop, indie, and beyond. Still going strong, the Warped Tour has something for everyone. With its finger on the pulse of youth culture, Vans remains a heavyweight in the game.

Featuring a collection of Vans Core Classics, Zappos has you good to go. Whether you're still skating or just want a casual, cool vibe without busting your budget, it's hard to go wrong with a pair of Authentics or slip-ons. Like most things timeless, Vans will never look outdated on your feet. There's just something comforting about vulcanized rubber under your feet. There might be more styles and colors to choose from today, but the basic principles still remain the same.