In 1977, the sneaker brand Vans introduced a new shoe style. It was a low-top skate shoe, decorated along its side with a single squiggly line, called the “jazz stripe,” that had originated as a random doodle by Vans co-founder Paul Van Doren. At the time, the shoe was known as the “Style 36,” but since then it has been renamed the Old Skool.
At 40, the Old Skool is old enough to have been worn by the parents of many of the teens and 20-somethings buying the shoe up in droves today. The simple, canvas skate classic has gradually emerged as one of fashion’s favorite shoes, dovetailing perfectly with a few of the major trends driving what people are wearing. And Vans is reaping the rewards. The Old Skool has recently become its number-one classic style, Steve Rendle, CEO of Vans’ parent company VF Corp., said on a call with analysts today (July 24).
The Old Skool has a lot working in its favor right now. Shoppers have been clamoring for retro sneakers and prioritizing lifestyle shoes over performance. At the same time, fashion has an ongoing fixation with streetwear, which has roots in Southern California’s surf-and-skate scene, the same breeding ground that produced Vans in the first place.
Skate culture has consequently grown over the past couple years into a particularly hot commodity in fashion’s trend cycle. These forces have made Vans Old Skools a common sight on celebrities, Instagram influencers, and industry insiders. Upscale fashion boutiques, as well as major sneaker retailers, are stocking the style.
Notably, the shoe has unisex appeal, giving it a big audience. Last summer, for instance, men’s magazine GQ picked the Old Skool as the next sneaker to blow up, and a month later fashion blog Who What Wear ran a roundup of women in the shoe at New York Fashion Week.
The Vans business as a whole is currently going strong. Rendle noted that other styles, such as its classic slip-ons, are also seeing substantial growth. The brand, in fact, is the largest and fastest-growing in VF Corp.’s portfolio, which includes outdoor gear maker The North Face and footwear brand Timberland.
At the moment, the Old Skool is a major contributor to Vans’ success. It’s 40th birthday looks like a happy one.