Product Story

Vans Old Skool – An In-Depth Guide

Let’s face it: we all know that the Vans Old Skool is a timeless, durable, and insanely comfortable icon. Despite being around for ages, we still can’t get enough. We’re besotted.

So, here is a bit of a love letter from us to this classic sneaker. To find out everything you ever need to know about the shoe, from its rich history to tips on how to lace Vans Old Skools, read on my friend, read on…

How Did Old Skools Come About?

The Birth of Vans

On 16th March 1966, In Anaheim, California, the Van Doren Rubber Company started selling shoes. Set up by the Van Doren brothers (Paul & James), alongside Gordon C Lee and Serge D’Elia, they wanted to sell footwear that was merely durable and profitable.

The Old Skool is Launched

By 1977, Vans’ popularity had grown, particularly amongst Californian skateboarders who liked the sticky sole and rugged makeup.

Superstar ‘boarders Stacy Peralta and Tony Alva had been encouraging the Van Dorens and partners to make shoes that were more and more suited to the needs of skateboarders.

Their influence paid off when Vans launched a new model, #36. These low-top skate shoes feature leather panels for increased durability. Later, to become known as the Old Skool, they were also the first to feature the side stripe.

Now instantly recognisable, this branding began as an idle doodle and started to be referred to as the “jazz stripe”. Nice.

A year after the launch of the Old Skool, Vans launched another iconic pair of sneaks. The Sk8-Hi (#38) modified the Old Skool design, retaining the jazz stripe and waffle sole sitting beneath a vulcanised rubber unit but adding vital support for the ankle.

What Different Styles of Old Skools Are There?

With an entire spectrum of colourways available and the Vans design team taking part in more collaborations than Mark Ronson, there is no shortage of variety for Old Skool fans. However, there are a few key takes on the standard model that trainer enthusiasts should be aware of.


The Mountain Edition line (shortened to MTE) is, as you’d maybe guess from the name, a hardier take on the standard model. As robustness and durability are key reasons behind the popularity of the Old Skool, we’re talking serious protection from the elements here.

The uppers of the shoe come treated with Scotchguard; they’re fleece-lined and have a heat retention layer between the sock liner and outsole. All this combines to keep your feet warm, dry, and able to breathe while still looking cool.

Reissue DX

The Reissue DX line of Old Skools has a slightly more vintage vibe to provide double retro goodness. They retain the iconic features that make Old Skool a stone-cold classic but with a few subtle differences.

Vans Old Skool Platform in Yellow

Available in a range of colourways, key variations include a coated suede and leather combo for extra protection against scuffing. There’s even an all-leather mono-python number featuring a snakeskin effect that’ll bring an extra bit of venom to any self-respecting sneakerhead’s game.


Ever wished you were a little bit taller? Vans have got you covered with the introduction of the Old Skool platform. Classic California skate vibes meet retro 90s platform trainer appeal in this reworking of the iconic Old Skool profile.

Who Wears Vans Old Skool?


The Californian skateboarders who influenced Vans designs would wear either shorts (some pictures suggest just shorts!) or straight-legged jeans above their Old Skools with a standard fitting t-shirt and topping the look off with shaggy surfer hairstyles. The jeans and t-shirts weren’t as baggy as the skate kids of the early 2000s would wear, but also generally not as tight as those of today’s boarders.

Old Skool skateboarder style translated for today:

  • Vans Old Skool in blue
  • Slim black jeans rolled up at the ankle (you don’t want your jeans restricting your kickflips)
  • White sport socks or no socks at all in warmer weather
  • Relaxed fit striped t-shirt


Legendary US Punk Henry Rollins would frequently be spotted on stage in a pair of these bad boys early in his career, whilst Bad Religion and Descendents have had custom models dedicated to them. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that the crossover between Californian skate culture and punk has seen pairs of Old Skool help propel stage divers into mosh pits the world over.

Vans Old Skool on White Background with Shoe Box

How to Rock the Punk & Old Skool style right now:

  • Black ripped skinny jeans
  • Classic black & white Old Skools
  • Fitted t-shirt featuring the logo of your favourite punk band
  • Tats, piercings and spiked hair (optional)

Hip-Hop Heads

Many of the different eras of hip-hop have an iconic sneaker that seems as integral to the scene as the tunes themselves. Think Puma Classics at the birth of the genre (The Get Down on Netflix is wall-to-wall with them) and Run DMC’s obsession with adidas Superstars (even releasing a song about their love of the brand).
Some of today’s hottest hip-hop artists have been snapped in a pair of Old Skools, helping them become a staple of today’s street style wardrobe. We’re talking guys like A$AP Rocky, Frank Ocean and Tyler, the Creator (whose Golf Wang label dropped a sweet collaboration with Vans back in 2015).

Street-style checklist:

  • Dark, tapered denims with turn-ups
  • Logo t-shirt or sweatshirt
  • Bomber jacket
  • Snapback
  • ….oh and a pair of mono Vans Old Skool
Vans Old Skool in Baby Blue with Blue Print Trousers

Join the fash-pack:

  • Ankle socks – fishnet, glittery, sheer – get them all
  • Then add straight-legged frayed jeans or an a-line denim skirt
  • Use your old schools to play it cool

Old Skool Fame


As at home at the skate park, as it is on the red carpet, the Vans Old Skool is no stranger to the silver screen. In 2016, a collaboration between Vans and Dinsey Pixar saw an exclusive range of Toy Story Vans, including a Woody-themed Old Skool. Similarly, Vans partnered with Marvel to deliver a range of trainers based on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, The Avengers.


Californian rappers The Pack secured a deal with Up All Nite records after posting their ode to the brand online, simply titled ‘Vans’. Whilst it didn’t explicitly call out Old Skools, it’s safe to assume that they would never have fallen in love with the brand if the Old Skools and their iconic side stripe hadn’t been created.

Also, you know that guy? That guy that oozes so much cool that he could replace an entire nation’s refrigerators?

Yeah, you do!

Pharrell Williams.

He just has to look at a pair of shoes, and they’re on the want list of men and women everywhere. Well, guess what he wore on the shoot of the video for a track he featured on with The Clipse called I’m Good?
Yup, it was a pair of Old Skools. In this case, it was the Old Skool collab with Supreme.

Vans Old Skool MultiColoured with MultiColoured Trousers
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So, there we go. Maybe you’ve learned something new, maybe it’s reinforced your love for Old Skools or perhaps convinced you to finally invest in a pair (about time!)? Either way, let us know what you think about them. Let us see how you rock your Old Skools by sharing your snaps with us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.