The All-Time Greatest Vans Old Skools: Part 1
The Old Skool may not be the first-ever Vans silhouette (that would be the Authentic), but it may very well be the one that’s most loved by sneakerheads. Originally introduced in 1977 as the Style 36, the Old Skool was not only the first pair of Vans to incorporate leather panels for added durability, but it also introduced the brand’s signature Sidestripe. What started as a random doodle by Vans co-founder Paul Van Doren has since evolved from its original ‘jazz stripe’ form to become the hallmark of the beloved SoCal brand.
Over 40 years since its debut, the Old Skool is entrenched as a fan-favourite, as well as being the preferred canvas for some of the brand’s best-ever drops. Whether it be the first-ever Supreme x Vans collaboration, Tyler, The Creator’s old Golf Wang kicks, or Blends’ coveted ‘Bones’ releases, the classic low-top has been cemented at the pinnacle of Vans’ footwear offerings, and the one most likely to be customised by your favourite designer.
With that in mind, we’re taking a look back at some of the best-ever Old Skools to hit shelves.
Check out Part One of our favourite releases below, and stay tuned for Part Two of our retrospective look back at the Vans icon.
Supreme x Vans Old Skool (1996)Supreme x Vans Old Skool (1996)
Supreme and Vans have dropped a ton of collaborative kicks over the years, but their first-ever co-branded endeavour remains one of their best. Released in 1996, ‘Preme’s debut Old Skool trio featured two different camouflage colourways alongside an understated beige/grey look. Each pair offered a suede/canvas combo along with red bogo badges. And who helmed the creations? None other than Noah head honcho Brendon Babenzien, who was Supreme’s newly minted Design Director at the time.
Golf Wang x Vans Old Skool (2015)Golf Wang x Vans Old Skool (2015)
Before he was churning out GOLF le FLEUR collaborations with Converse, Tyler, The Creator was working with Vans on a number of different colabs. Naturally, the iconic Old Skool served as the canvas, and 2015’s drop stood out thanks to its eye-catching colourways – which were expertly teased by Tyler himself to drum up hype ahead of the release – and the use of Vans’ ubiquitous checkerboard motif.
Alexander Lee Chang x Vans Boa Skool (2017)Alexander Lee Chang x Vans Boa Skool (2017)
Back in 2015, Japanese pro skater-turned-fashion-designer Alexander Lee Chang put his stamp on the Old Skool by ditching the lacing for a trio of Velcro straps to create the Old Skool EZ. Even better than those, though, was 2017’s ‘Boa Skool’. Like the EZ, these took on the low-top’s OG blue/black colourway and ditched the traditional lacing. This time, however, the laces were replaced with the adjustable Boa apparatus to give a technical edge to the classic skate kicks.
nonnative x Vans Old Skool (2018)nonnative x Vans Old Skool (2018)
For years, Japan’s nonnative have been putting their own signature spin on kicks like the Converse Pro Leather and Vans Sk8-Hi by covering them in neutral colourways and premium hairy suede while adding zippered gussets to the tongue. The results see the tried and true silhouettes transformed into customised Slip-Ons that can be worn with or without the included laces. In 2018, the brand brought the same look to the Old Skool and even lined the low-tops in tonal versions of the Vans checkerboard motif to match the uppers.
Concepts x Vans Syndicate Old Skool S ‘Rat Hunter’ (2014)Concepts x Vans Syndicate Old Skool S ‘Rat Hunter’ (2014)
Affectionately known as ‘The Rat’, the Rathskeller has long been considered Boston’s answer to New York City’s legendary CBGB. In 2014, Beantown’s own Concepts paid homage to the storied venue with a ‘Rat Hunter’ edition of the Old Skool. Released under the Syndicate umbrella, the punk-inspired kicks included duct tape–like cracked leather to go along with washed denim and suede construction, as well as a red checkerboard that stretched around the rubber midsole wrap.
Blends x Vans Vault Old Skool Zip LX ‘Bones’ (2014)Blends x Vans Vault Old Skool Zip LX ‘Bones’ (2014)
SoCal’s Blends have been responsible for some of the most coveted Vans to ever hit shelves, thanks mostly to their badass ‘Bones’ motif. The look may have debuted on the Sk8-Hi in 2013 (which was released to celebrate Blends’ 10-year anniversary), but 2014’s Old Skool follow-up was even better, pairing the bone jazz stripe with premium black leather construction and added medial zippers along the eyestay.
Undercover x Vans Vault Old Skool LX (2017)Undercover x Vans Vault Old Skool LX (2017)
You can’t go wrong with an Undercover footwear collaboration, and that remained true with 2017’s Old Skool drop. Released in grey and bordeaux colourways, the kicks were an example of understated perfection as Jun Takahashi added a simple floral motif to the canvas quarter panels, footbeds, and translucent outsoles.
have a good time x Vans Old Skool (2015)have a good time x Vans Old Skool (2015)
Tokyo-based have a good time almost always roll with the same aesthetic when it comes to their collaborative endeavours, decorating the designs in their signature red-framed lowercase wordmark. Their 2015 Old Skools were no different, opting for a collage of logos across the upper’s canvas while off-white suede, stark white leather jazz stripes, and stripe-free rubber midsole wraps completed the package.
Sasquatchfabrix. x Vans Old Skool (2017)Sasquatchfabrix. x Vans Old Skool (2017)
Simplicity was the name of the game for Japanese brand Sasquatchfabrix. in their Old Skool collaboration with Vans from 2017. While white canvas and off-white suede allowed the red tongue badges and midsole stripes to pop, the real highlight was the addition of an elasticised woven gusset to the tongue. The subtle mod not only allowed wearers to rock the kicks as laceless slip-ons, but was also applied in such a way that it could be completely hidden with traditional lacing.
Vincent Van Gogh Museum x Vans Old Skool (2018)Vincent Van Gogh Museum x Vans Old Skool (2018)
Amsterdam’s Vincent Van Gogh Museum may not be the most obvious choice for a collaborative partner, but 2018’s Vans collaboration was a match made in art-decorated footwear heaven. While the iconic artist’s Almond Blossoms, Skulls, and Sunflowers were incorporated throughout the collection, the Old Skool may have been the best of the bunch and was the only piece from the drop to make use of Van Gogh’s Old Vineyard With Peasant Woman drawing from 1890.