Reviewed & updated: October 19, 2022 by Jamie Wilson BA
Vans have been a classic staple within the skating community for years, but like many iconic fashion pieces, they’ve found a way to slip into the mainstream. In this handy guide, we’ll show you some of the various ways you can make these shoes work for you, no matter what your style is.
Vans Slip Ons
Let’s start with the basic design and one that became the uniform for skater kids around the US. With their iconic shape, versatile look, and comfortable finish, they’re the perfect addition to any casual outfit. Grab them in plain, minimalist designs, patterned numbers, or the classic checkboard pattern designed by Steve Van Doran. With so many looks on offer, it’s easy to customize the look to suit you.
What to Wear With Vans Slip Ons
The beauty of the Vans slip-on is that they are the model with ease. Easy-going to throw on the last-minute rush and essentially easy to dress up and dress down, the slip-on can become an ultimate addition for your wardrobe.
While the shoe is minimal in design detail keep your outfit consistently the same. For this, when opting for the classic black slip-on take advantage of pairing it with neutral tones for a muted look. To build the look, throw on a longline T-shirt and a pair of Levi’s jeans. This outfit is the definition of comfort and evidently easy to layer throughout the colder seasons.
Vans Old Skool
The ‘Old Skool’ style is a slightly chunkier plimsoll with leather and suede detailing and a thick gum sole. Unlike more casual styles, the Old Skool, with a distinctly retro feel, can be dressed up a little more than most Vans footwear.
Known as the first Vans shoe to feature the iconic side (or ‘jazz’ stripe) that has become so synonymous with the Vans sneaker today. The classic black Old Skool is probably the most iconic model from the Vans archive. A classic for skating and BMX scene it was also adopted by figureheads of punk rock.
What to Wear With Vans Old Skool
Despite its distinct look, there are actually quite a few ways you can style these classic Vans. Its unique style means that whatever you dress it up or down in, you’ll always have a look that stands out from the crowd and will never be boring no matter what you match it with. Easy to partner with a pair of ankle socks, the Old Skool is the staple shoe to the Vans clan.
For a modern look with an extra bit of comfort, dress up your Old Skools with a Yeezy inspired look. Opting for the seasonal favorite the camel overcoat, layer your outfit with a classic grey hoodie and matching joggers. Farah’s classic overcoat, £169, is perfect for this year and the iconic brand’s quality will make sure that you look good. When picking out the joggers, Make sure they have the elastic on the ankle so the trainers sit without being gathered. These Champion joggers, £55, are also perfect for the gym and for completing an outfit.
With a padded collar, thick gum sole and suede detailing, Vans version of the high top – the Sk8-Hi men – is great if you are looking for comfort and style. Designed specifically for skaters looking for support and durability, the sneaker made its way into punk rock in the late ’70s – a testament to its classic style and enduring appeal.
Adapted from the ‘Old Skool’ style, the Sk8-Hi incorporates a thick rubber sole and retro-inspired suede detailing down the side of the shoe. The ankle padding on the high top makes them more of a casual option than the traditional trainer shoe, making them an ideal option for less formal outings and lazy days.
What to Wear With Vans Sk8-Hi
The easiest way to achieve a casual look with the Sk8-Hi’s is to adapt to more of a Scandinavian look – which is essentially is relaxed yet tailored. The Parka will see you through those fast approaching winter months and your wardrobe definitely needs a pair of good quality jeans.
Seeing Vans Sk8-Hi being worn is like seeing birds in the sky, they’re everywhere, but to add your own touch then keep the look minimal. These all-black Sk8-Hi’s are perfect for winter and festival season meaning they’re a staple in whatever season.
The model is named authentic for a reason. Being the staple trainer since day one of Van’s history, the Authentic model is a nostalgic classic pair for any sneakerhead. Worn and praised by surfers and skaters since 1966, it’s still one of the most popular models today.
With its low rise design, visible stitching, and rubber classic white sole – the Authentic is easy to curate for any style, essentially making it a timeless shoe to Van’s timeline. The shoe itself has revolutionized through the years and is still going strong in sales today.
What to Wear With Vans Authentic
Due to the authentic’s simplistic look, don’t be afraid to play around with layers and textures. Spruce up your Vans with a classic white Oxford shirt and wide-leg chino. Roll up the hems to elevate the low-rise of the trainer, essentially providing a blank space to play around with socks of your choice.
Smarten your outfit further with our Editors favorite, the western jacket. Opting for the suede design creates a variety of textures in your look, perfect for the transitional periods of the year.
Socks to Wear with Vans
To sock or not to sock? That is the question and a tricky one at that. You’re caught in limbo between wanting to embrace the warmer weather and going sock-free but risking serious odor issues, or opting for socks and possibly suffering the same sweaty fate.
Plain and Simple
If wacky socks aren’t for you, don’t be afraid to go for the safety of plain. If you are wanting to create a more premium look we always recommend opting for Leath Vans. Available in every model, leather provides the contemporary edge, perfect to pair with any minimalistic outfit.
Pattern and Vibrant
With the classic Old Skool’s retro look, opting for the right sock shouldn’t leave you too limited. Ideal to pair with shorts, we like to opt for striped designs with colorways including black or white. Additionally, playing around with vibrant colors creates a nostalgic look, channeling the skate culture of the 1980s.
Apart from Old Skool, this look is great for other low rise models such as Authentic, Era, and Slip-On – sprucing up any pair of shorts.
Alternatively, Customise Your Vans
If wearing your brand-spanking-new Vans isn’t enough, don’t be afraid to customize on the blank canvas. Since 1966, Skate and biking culture don’t color within the lines – especially for their decks or their footwear.
What makes Vans popular is that they are all about individuality and expression, and they’ve been championed for their wide scope when it comes to prints and colorways. Since the ’90s, it’s been possible to tweak your Vans sneakers from something as simple and changing the color of the canvas, to adding patterns to the edge of the gum sole to printing Disney characters onto the shoe.
Alternatively, a DIY approach takes individuality to a whole new level. To make their mark on their sneakers, Van’s devotees have painted, scribbled, and tie-dyed their shoes in a bid to inject their own personality and style into their apparel.
You can also try a less permanent take on expression by simply trying out different lacing techniques. There is a range to try out, including diamond, straight lace, ladder, and checkerboard to name a few. This can really change up the look of your shoes and add a touch of creativity to an ordinary outfit.
How to Wear Vans
- Vans Slip-On style is an easy, versatile style that can be mixed up with various casual looks.
- Vans Old Skool features the iconic jazz strip and has a chunky, vintage look so are good for someone into Nineties fashion.
- Vans Sk8-Hi has a padded collar for extra comfort but should be avoided if you have short legs.
- Vans Authentic offer a clean and simple finish.
On That Note
For 50 years, Vans has been a staple of skater apparel for their versatility, style, and quality. To celebrate their 50th birthday, Vans will no doubt be rolling out a whole host of limited edition sneakers, releasing new collaborations, and holding special events. But for now, the iconic styles and colorways of the slip-on, old skool, and SK8-Hi will have to do.
Feature image from Pinterest