Brother Tiger’s pulling at a whiskey on the rocks when I ask him if he remembers his first pair of Vans.
He stops mid-sip, thinks and says, “man, it was, like, two years ago.” He then continues taking drags off the small, crystalline glass and half-shrugs before tugging at his jeans and motioning to his Clarks.
“Clarks are where it’s at!” He says. “Vans were just never for me.”
I had to ask, considering we were both at the Vans Vault 10-year anniversary event in New York last Thursday and a lot of attendees were wearing a pair of Vans. Not like my question was some veiled attempt at guerrilla marketing: Brother Tiger and I were at the event mainly for the free booze, the music (performances by M. Ward and Washed Out) and as a way to pass a dreary evening in which that space between the Hudson and the bar more resembled the splash zone of the log ride at Cedar Point than a chic Chelsea intersection.
But I also had to ask because I love Vans. Always have. And besides boozing and toasting and celebrating Vans’ luxury line of shoes, I got deep, man, because I started to think about my own history with Vans.
That’s me, pictured bottom left, wearing my first pair of Vans
When I was younger I often spent summers with my grandparents in Canton, Ohio. Canton is just south of Akron and Cleveland, a depressed but still functioning spiderweb of suburbs and bombed-out factories.
But Canton also has a mall, Belden Villege, set aside from Interstate 77, and Belden Village has a Kohl’s where we’d frequently shop for back-to-school supplies and clothes.
I was ten when I convinced my Nana and Popo to buy me my first pair of Vans. They were bastardized Vans, like the chubby little brother of a pair of Old Skools, but they had fat white laces, a gum sole, navy suede upper and the signature white wave across its middle.
My grandmother fussed over how “sharp” they looked. I pawed at the roughness of the suede. My grandfather remarked that they were only $35.
It was a good job, good effort all around.