“Surfing’s not a sport, it’s a way of life. It’s no hobby. It’s a way of looking at that wave and saying, ‘Hey bud, let’s party!’” – Jeff Spicoli, Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn before he got weird) may have done more for a brand of shoes by smashing them against his forehead in Fast Times at Ridgemont High than any paid spokesperson in a national campaign ever could have done. This is what makes Vans one of the best shoe brands in the world.

It’s a brand that relies on street cred more than flashy marketing to get their point across. Although they are a company that spans the globe, with thousands of faithful walking the earth with waffle soles, it almost feels like a small club that you belong to when you get a pair. And of the hundreds of shoes that Vans has produced over the company’s 50 year run, the Checkerboard Slip-Ons are the ones that stand out the most.

As a teenager in suburban Chicago, I grew up playing in bands, going to punk shows and trying (and failing) to master the perfect ollie on my parents’ block. It goes without saying that Vans were my shoe of choice. And those black and white Slip-Ons were with me whether I was standing on some fresh grip tape or a sticky venue floor.

You can argue that the Converse Chuck Taylor are a more popular shoe, but they are a shoe for the masses. Vans stand for something. Vans mean you’re on the inside. Wearing Vans means you knew the next big thing before anyone else did.

They’re not just a shoe. They’re an identity.

Coloured canvas on top of a slab of rubber. Sometimes the simplest things are the most iconic.

Kevin Kovanich – Experience Planner, mcgarrybowen Chicago