May 9, 2022

Last updated on May 13, 2022

The Buyer's Guide: Vans

Elhadji Mare

Elhadji is a Creative Content Strategist & Writer @ StockX

California's very own Vans are some of the most trending sneakers out. Learn more about the brand and their famous waffle-soled shoes.

California's very own Vans are some of the most trending sneakers out. Learn more about the brand and their famous waffle-soled shoes.

This article is part 22 of 27 in the series: StockX Buyer's Guides

Vans is having a moment within fashion and pop culture. From their slew of successful collaborations with streetwear brands and figures like JJJJound and Sarah Andelman to celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Big Sean casually rocking them, Vans is becoming one of the “It” sneakers of 2022 giving the brand a relatively quick resurgence since the “Damn Daniel” era of 2016. If you’re in the market for a new pair of Vans or just want to hop on the trend, follow this Buyer’s Guide to learn more about the history of Vans and which model may be right for you.

Why Are Vans so Popular?

Despite popular belief, Vans didn’t start off as a skateboarding shoe company. Brothers Paul and Jim Van Doren were more interested in creating high-quality casual shoes on-demand for their customers. To achieve this feat, the brothers and their business partners Gordon Lee and Serge Delia started their business in 1966 in a 400-square foot building located in Anaheim, CA. The shop was part manufacturing plant, part retail store, allowing them to make shoes as they were purchased. Customers would come into the store, put in their order, select one of four silhouettes to choose from, and get the shoe freshly made within a couple of hours. It was a novel idea at the time, especially when more businesses were outsourcing their production.  

Paul (bottom) and James (top) Van Doren. Photo sourced by WWD.

On their first day of business, only 12 customers came in and bought one of the four sneakers that Vans offered, one of which was the #44, now known today as the Authentic. Despite a slow start, word of Vans’ unique business model and both the look and construction of their signature sneakers built recognition for the brand throughout California. Each sneaker featured a durable waffle outsole pattern that improved traction, and this caught the attention of skaters in the midst of California’s burgeoning skateboard culture. Throughout the 70s, skaters, including legends like Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta, looked to Vans sneakers as their go-to riding shoes and helped pivot the brand toward embracing the extreme sport. 

The shoes would soon expand their popularity overseas as Vans were worn in the 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The main character, Jeff Spicoli, played by Sean Penn, wears the shoes throughout the movie and is depicted as a young, funny, and often intoxicated skateboarder. The movie became a cult classic, making $27 million at the box office, helping bring Vans to the forefront of popular culture. Thanks to the movie, sales for Vans increased in 1982 to $45 million, a nearly $25 million increase from their previous year of sales. 

How Many Vans Models Are There?

Vans has since expanded their lineup of four sneakers and currently offers eight different styles. The lineage of models starts with its oldest pair, the Authentic, which is one of the first sneakers made by Vans in 1966. From then on, Vans introduced the Era, Old Skool, Slip-Ons, and Sk8-His all within the 1970s. These sneakers would help build Vans’ selection of offerings, each with skateboarders in mind. As the business expanded and grew, Vans introduced a mid-cut version of their Sk8-Hi called the Sk8-Mid, alongside a lifestyle model called the UltraRange, and a more surf-centric shoe called the Surf Boot.

What’s the Difference Between Vans and Vans Vault?

In 2003, Vans introduced Vans Vault, a sublabel to Vans that utilizes more vintage-inspired designs and elevated materials on their classic silhouettes. The Vans Vault sneakers tend to follow a release calendar that focuses on limited quantities, a strategy all too familiar to your average sneakerhead. Each pair of Vans Vaults is geared more toward a consumer that appreciates high-end streetwear and fashion. The Vans feature more plush materials as well, from smooth pigskin leather liners to hairy suede uppers. Most of Van’s collaborations also run through their Vans Vault sublabel, as brands and shops like Museum of Peace and Quiet, BAPE, and Notre have all left their stamp on Vans’ expansive catalog through Vault.

Are Vans Shoes Expensive?

When Vans first started, their sneakers were low in cost thanks to their in-house manufacturing. Back in 1966 when the brand first started, the shoes ran customers between $2.29 and $4.49 (around $20.70 and $40.59 today according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Now, Vans has become a worldwide footwear brand and the average retail price for a pair is around $65. The price gets trickier when it comes to the secondary market. On StockX, there are both general and collaborative releases, with pairs selling above and below their MSRP. One can snag a pair of classic Vans Slip-On Checkerboard for around $40, which is $10 less than retail. While a pair of Vans OG Style 36 LX Notre Matcha from their 2022 partnership with sneaker boutique, Notre, sells for about $160, a sizable increase from their $90 retail price. Regardless, with a variety of styles and colorways to choose from on StockX, there is sure to be a pair that not only matches your fit, but also your budget.

Check out StockX’s catalog for all things Vans and discover some of their more popular styles below.