WORDS BY STEPHEN YU
If there’s one brand that captures California living better than any other, it’s Vans. While the East Coast has Converse, the West is definitely Vans territory –– think of any classically Californian subculture, whether surf or skate orientated, or twinned with music and arts, and it’s impossible to disconnect it from Vans. Founded in 1966 by brothers Paul and Jim Van Doren, Vans were famed for having thicker soles and more durable duck canvas uppers than any of their competitors, which meant they were widely adopted by skateboarders. They then entered the mainstream as the checkerboard shoe of choice for the character of Jeff Spicoli, played by Sean Penn, in the 1982 movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High. As one of the main sponsors of the Warped Tour and a permanent fixture in every extreme sport, classic Vans silhouettes like the Old Skool, Era or Sk8-Hi have become the signature shoe for rebels and outsiders. Now, with the modern-day thirst for retro footwear and decades of countercultural connections, Vans have become a dominant force in the footwear industry and are just as American as apple pie.
As one of the few sneaker brands that transcends all subcultures, trends and wardrobes, the beautiful thing about Vans is that they go with any outfit and never go out of style. So, whether you’re indulging in your first pair ever, or you’re a skater on your fifth pair this year, nothing makes you feel like having your own slice of California sunshine quite like a pair of Vans. Here to help you get the right Vans shoe sizing are three ‘Off The Wall’ characters who know everything about wearing Vans on-feet.
The Ultimate Vans Sizing & Fit Guide
Fashion Instagrammer based in Los Angeles, United States
My first pair of Vans were the classic Old Skools in black and white. I loved those shoes and wore them almost every day until they started to rip apart. I remember back in grade school they were the cool shoes to have –– it was all about that skater look. Nowadays, I love Vans because they’re so easy to mix and match with any outfit and that’s important with my busy schedule. And now I can appreciate their affordability myself too.
I decided to wear a tie-dye shirt from Stylenanda, a Misbhv bucket hat, and some wide leg sweats with a pair of checkerboard platform soled Slip Ons –– being 5’3, I need the extra height whenever I can get it. I put this outfit together because I like to keep things simple most of the time. I feel like you can wear Vans with almost anything; you can pair them with relatively feminine outfits, or throw on a pair to create a look with more of a streetwear vibe.
My fashion sense is very unisex and I like to play around with womenswear and menswear so Vans fit in very well with my outfits. I never really thought of them as being more of a ‘male’ shoe, because as I was growing up a lot of my female friends and girl peers wore them too.
Sizing & Fit:
Vans fit true to size for me. Even if you have wider feet they’ll fit fine for you too because of their overall shape. I bought my mum (who has wider feet) a pair and she was very happy with them.
Vans are really comfortable, that's why they’re one of my go-to everyday shoes. I’ve stuck with classic styles like the Old Skool, Slip On, and Sk8-Hi, and all of these models feel the same. The Slip Ons are easier to deal with because there are no laces so you’re good to go. Once you’ve broken in your Vans they mould to the shape of your feet great.
When I first get a pair I take really good care of them and wash them every time I wear them (even the bottoms). It’s what I do with all my sneakers, I’m kind of OCD when it comes to how I take care of my shoes. I wash all my sneakers with a toothbrush, dish soap, and a little cloth, but I try to avoid the suede or canvas on a pair of Vans because it can cause the colour to change faster. Once they’ve gotten very creased or have a mark that won’t come off, I let them age normally. Vans are one of the few pairs of sneakers I still wear when they’re really beaten up as they still look good overall.
Fashion Instagrammer based in Colorado, United States
My first pair of Vans were dark blue with a gum sole. They stuck with me because they were sturdy enough to skate in, they looked good, and they represented my lifestyle. I love the nostalgic aesthetic of the silhouettes and the classic styles and patterns. Vans has continuously done amazing collaborations and their collections with Tyler the Creator got my attention –– and held it. They handle all kinds of activities well, they look amazing, and wearing them is a great way to express yourself.
Today I’m wearing my red, yellow, and blue Golf Wang X Vans Old Skools. These released in 2015 alongside three other pairs that feature bold colours and checkered print. This pair stood out to me due to the simple colour blocking technique used. I styled them with a pair of ivory denim jeans that have a small blue embroidery on the back pocket. Up top, I wore a striped Golf Wang collared long sleeve with colours that match the Vans. To top it off I chose a yellow hat since it’s the colour primarily showcased on the Vans to complete the outfit. It’s bright, playful, and great for many occasions.
I personally like to wear jeans or shorts with Vans because these garments have a utilitarian origin –– they’re meant to be worn and used just like a pair of Vans. Vans are designed for skating in but can stand up to festivals, hiking, or anything else the world can throw at them, proving themselves to be extremely versatile. They’re built for having fun in so when styling them you should do just that, have fun and express yourself.
Sizing & Fit:
Vans fit true to size. They’re a super-comfortable fit - slightly narrow and pretty flat. It may not sound attractive, but it’s what’s made so many different skate shoes a staple in fashion e.g. Nike SB Janoski's, and Converse One Stars but most recognizably Vans. They won’t give you the support or ‘bounce’ a running shoe provides, but the flat sole offers its own range of benefits. If you’re looking to purchase a pair of Vans get the size you most commonly buy and enjoy. They’ll last you a long time and be the focal point of many of your outfits.
I pretty much only wear skate shoes, whether that’s Converse One Stars, éS Skateboarding shoes or Vans. Vans are definitely the most comfortable of the three. The insole is built very well and doesn’t feel as flat as other skate shoes making them a great casual shoe. For the cost the comfort levels are high and they’re built to last. It’s not uncommon to see a 10-year old pair of Vans that get worn religiously. That’s because they’re stylish, comfortable, and affordably priced. They’ll easily be some of the most comfortable shoes in your rotation.
Whether or not I take care of my Vans depends on the pair. That’s the beauty of Vans. I have a pair I use for play and another pair I keep nice for that one outfit that matches them perfectly. Vans shoes can look great worn-in or pristine because they represent the character of who wears them, whether you love to play and get dirty or keep things nice and neat.
Visual creator and fashion Instagrammer based in New York, United States
I can’t pinpoint exactly the first pair of Vans I ever owned, but my first memory of Vans was when I was really young, maybe 11 or 12. Like most kids in Southern California, I was convinced I was a skateboarder, which I really wasn't. Nevertheless, my Dad took me to a Shoe City in Los Angeles and I got two pairs of skateboarding Vans, one black and one brown pair. The ones I remember getting were more functional as they were designed for skateboarding, they were cushioned and chunky and very different from the Authentics I tend to wear these days. I'm such a big fan of Vans because I've just been wearing them for so long and they're just a huge part of the fashion and lifestyle in LA, especially when you grow up here. If you grew up in Southern California, I bet you own at least a pair but probably more like a dozen pairs of Vans.
Since Vans for me are so synonymous with Southern California I wanted to make the outfit speak to that. Therefore, I chose a pair of Vans that are a collaboration with an LA brand called Free & Easy. More importantly, I purchased these Vans from a local LA store I've been going to for 15 years or so, called Hot Rod. To keep with the LA vibe I added a simple shirt from another long time LA-based brand, Union and brought it all together with a simple denim-on-denim look. Vans are styled in so many different ways these days but to me they'll always be a skate brand that leans more towards street. With that being said, I personally pair mine with casual denim looks like the one featured here. They're just a great everyday staple in my wardrobe.
Sizing & Fit:
Most Vans do fit true to size, especially the core models like the Old Skools or Authentics. Some of the other models like the Eras or other Vans Vault collaborations, may run a little bigger. Vans are such a simple shoe, especially compared to other sportswear or high fashion sneakers. Their Authentic or Era styles are just a suede or canvas upper paired with a rubber outsole, so simple and classic.
These days, Vans have a ton of different models that have incorporated more cushioned soles and things to make them more comfortable. However, the Authentics, Eras and Old Skools – the styles I tend to wear – are just simple and classic. Over time, the sole wears in and moulds to your foot so there’s that break-in transition period. But really, Vans haven't changed much since the early years and I've been wearing them for so long that I know I'm being incredibly biased when I say they're a very comfortable shoe. I own probably 14 pairs and will always reach for them over any other shoe in my closet.
Like with any shoe, in the first few months I'll take special care of my Vans but I definitely do like them beaten-up and worn-in. The more you wear them the more they fit your foot and break-in. The good thing about most Vans too is that with a canvas upper, they're really easy to clean. You can throw them into the wash, let them air dry with a shoe mould and they'll usually hold their form perfectly and look brand new. My oldest pair of Vans is about 11 years old, they've been washed upwards of 10-12 times and they're still a daily go-to – beat-up and dirty in all their glory.