Right off the bat let me make one thing clear: there were hundreds of brands out there in the early-to-mid 2000’s that offered high-quality sneakers, I know that. But really, we all know that only two of them counted.
Vans and Converse.
I mean, really, what else would match your black too-tight skinny jeans, obscure band tee and/or plaid shirt, leather strap bracelets, and of course, your highlighted bangs? And before you deny it, be real: we all went through that phase. Not to mention the numerous debates that raged between Vans fans and Chucks fans (but really, let’s face it: Chucks were better).
Set those awkward fashion choices aside, however, and you’ll realize that the only timeless piece in that ensemble were the wicked shoes we rocked.
Show off hands, who here still has their pair of checkered slip-ons or Chuck Taylor’s from like, 2003?
*raises hand immediately*
Yes, despite the abuse we put them through with all the mosh pits, failed kickflips on a skateboard, long nights walking from a gig to your house because we all spent our money on beer and were left without bus money and no one could drive because we were all 16 (ahhh memories), you’d be surprised at how sturdy Vans and Converse can be.
Of course, nowadays Vans and Converse are worn for their casual look, their easy-going design, or worse…their nostalgic appeal.
Nostalgic appeal! Let that sink in, 30-year old millennials!
Of course, if you really want to set off a 30-something millennial (or, triggerdt, as the kids say these days), you’re going to want to ask: which shoe was better, Vans or Converse?
While you’ll be tempted to side with one against the other, let’s take a hard look at the shoes that defined our punk-pop selves and you’ll see that both shoes have their own unique flavor:
Converse All Stars
Also known as Chuck Taylor’s, Chucks, Cons, All Stars, or that shoe you wrote on (remember that being a thing?), Converse’s Chuck Taylor All-Stars was an absolute must for the pop-punk scene kids who saw their favorite frontmen wear it on stage.
A little history: Converse started out way back in 1908 as a company that specialized in rubber-soled winterized shoes. In 1910, they started making shoes specifically designed for athletes, one of the first mass-produced athletic shoes in the market. Then, in 1921, Converse teamed up with Charles H. “Chuck” Taylor, one of the early basketball players of the time. Chuck Taylor, seeing Converse’s great work with other athletic shoes, persuaded the company to create a shoe specifically for basketball. Thus, the All-Star was born.
Since its inception, Chucks haven’t really changed much in terms of design: all-white rubber sole with a fabric body (usually canvas), and available in either high-tops or low-tops. Of course, over time, the monochrome canvas body began to take on different designs, with 00’s scene kids taking the literal blank canvas as an opportunity to get creative by sewing on patches or decorating it with markers.
Chucks were great for the day, at night, for school, at gigs, and everything else in between. Ironic, though, considering that the shoe was made for basketball players and athletes, but was worn and popularized by teens who had too much time on their hands and too much music on their minds. But hey, at least we got to write down emo song lyrics on the sole guard!
It’s hard to believe that the official merch of skater punks is almost 60 years old, but Vans has been churning out those well beloved slip-ons since 1966. Originating from Anaheim, California, Vans started out as the Van Doren Rubber Company, and was envisioned to be a custom-designed shoe manufacturer. Over time, they expanded their business and became the skatepunk classic that they are today.
And it’s not just them riding the skating trend: Vans was instrumental in developing the skate culture in California thanks to their comfortable, easy-to-wear, and no-slip shoes that quickly became popular with skate punks everywhere, not to mention their sponsorship of the Warped Tour and their building of numerous skate parks across the state.
From its iconic black-and-white checkered design to monochrome colors and even some print styles, the Vans slip-ons became a skater necessity; the style and functionality of the slip-ons just appealed to the skate kids, like a match made in heaven.
Vans slip-ons are made almost exactly like Chucks: white rubber sole with a canvas body, but this time sans laces. Of course, Vans has other lines of shoes out there that look more like conventional sneakers, but who has the time for that when I’m busy buying my umpteenth slip-on to add to my ever growing collection?!
Tale of the Tape
Pros & Cons of Converse
Pros: Design-wise, Chucks have a more versatile look –they’re perfect if you want to relive your pop-punk scene glory days, but they’re also great for a smart-casual look. The canvas body does stain a little easy, but that’s the beauty of All-Stars: they look great dirty.
I have a hard time thinking of any other shoe that still looks bomb despite having dirt streaks all over it. But my favorite part about the All-Star is its sturdiness. Seriously, I’ve had a pair of Chucks that I bought way back in 2003 that are still functional. Granted, I’ve had it repaired with patch work a few times, but heck, that just makes it so much more pop-punk imho!
Con: They can be a little narrow on your feet, and while they are versatile for most occasions, forget about wearing these in the rain (unless you have some kind of hydrophobic spray protecting the canvas).
Design: 5/5. In its almost 100 years of existence, Converse has yet to drastically change the design of the All-Star. And why should they? It works.
Durability: 3/5. The original All-Stars were designed for basketball players to run up and down the hard court. However, the recent designs for the Chuck II have replaced the heavy rubber sole with lightweight polymers. While it provides a more comfortable wear, it does breakdown more often. Not that it matters, considering beat up chucks look punk af.
Comfort: 5/5. They were built for athletes, yes, but they were built to be comfortable shoes that you could wear both in game and out. The Chuck II ups the comfort level with Nike Lunarlon footbeds to give your feet some extra shock absorption.
Cool: 10/5. I mean if it was cool enough for The Ramones, it should be cool enough for you.
Pros & Cons of Vans
Pros: Minimalist but highly functional, Vans slip-ons are a must if you’re an active skater or if you’re looking for something that’s casual without being lazy. The rubber sole of the Vans slip-ons are specifically designed to grip a skateboard deck so you don’t slip while trying to perform a kickflip despite having bad knees. It comes in multiple designs, but my favorites are the monochrome colored shoes. Because it comes without laces, the front of the shoe is broad, giving you the option to customize it with your own designs to really accentuate your personality.
Cons: Unlike the All-Stars, Vans’ soles are a little thinner and not as sturdy. I personally collect different designs of Vans slip-ons, but if I wore one for the same duration as my Chucks, they’d fall apart long before my All-Stars would.
Design: 4/5. Simple and minimalistic, Vans’ slip-on shoes are the epitome of DIY. It fits so well with the punk aesthetic because it’s practically a blank canvass for you to draw on. It’s on the plain side, but that’s a draw for some people.
Durability:5/5. As a former long boarder, let me tell you: it’s hell on your sneaks. Which is why Vans takes the cake in terms of durability. Slip-ons can take punishment, from freeriding down a hill or just kickflips in the park. They also require less maintenance than Chucks.
Comfort: 5/5. Probably the closest you’ll get to that barefoot experience, Vans slip-on’s are unparalleled in terms of comfort.
Cool: 4/5. Unless you’re a hardcore skater or neck-deep in the hardcore punk scene, Vans’ slip-ons can look a little contrived on some people. Although, Henry Rollins seems to like him, and I don’t want to mess with that guy.
Let me come right out and say it: I love Chucks and I’ll probably be biased towards them, but whatever, these kinds of debates almost always boil down to subjective, personal preferences. However, there are some undeniable facts, like how Chucks are a little more appropriate for smart-casual affairs, which we all go to now because we’re *shudder* adults. Vans, on the other hand, are perfect for casual settings like brunch or a Sunday out in the park.
For me, unless you’re an active skater, then a pair of Vans might be a little less versatile than Chucks for kids our age. Yes, it’s fun to reminisce about growing your bangs and rocking out to Sum 41 at your local dive bar, but we’re in our 30’s now, and we need shoes that we use to go to work and meet other adults in the city, much to our teenage self’s disappointment.
Of course, you can’t go wrong with either. Just, you know, leave your star-decorated Chucks or duct-taped-repaired Vans at home and buy yourself a fresh pair.