Get Comfortable: Vans Takes Us to School

Dropping Science With Tony Alva

Vans took us back to school last week in New York. Not even kidding. Class was most definitely in session when professors Tony Alva and Rian Pozzebon rang the bell, calling students in for sessions on history and technology. Particularly Skateboarding History and Cush Technology 101.

No, running in the halls: Rian Pozzebon and Tony Alva

Alva is, of course, the legendary skater whose style led to the development of the first skate shoe and Pozzebon is Vans’ Director of Global Footwear Design, who is responsible for all the more recent skate shoes you see, from the Rowley’s responsiveness to the Kyle Walker’s waffle cup to the Berle’s boardfeel.

Legend has it, and by legend, we mean the actual account from Alva and Pozzebon, that the Dogtown crew were coming into the Santa Monica Vans store all the time with odd tears in the back inside heels up to their ankles of their Vans. They were odd in that, well, people don’t normally wear out their shoes on their ankles.

The mystery was solved though when they looked at how the skaters were riding—crouched in a surf position with their back foot hugging the edge of their board. They came in so often that Betty, the store manager, began selling them one shoe at a time since the shoe on their trailing foot wore out so much faster.

Betty, the store manager, began selling them one shoe at time.

This started the two-tone style so associated with Vans, since often the skaters now had mismatched pairs. They kind of owned it, and contrasting colors were baked into the Vans’ aesthetic from then on. The next thing that happened was that Vans designers took note of the wear on the shoes, which were the OG style of Vans, the Authentic model these days. They too said, hey, that’s a weird place to rip your canvas. And then they saw how the guys were riding and said, ohhhhh. Vans added padding around the ankle and reinforced things, developing the very first skate-specific shoe.

“Who threw that?”

So these styles have been around since the beginning. And a lot of people who wore those shoes in high school are not in high school anymore and looking for a bit more comfort. What those people got is a lot more comfort. A ridiculously cushy amount of comfort. With the ComfyCush line those OG models, the Authentic and Era, look the same, but they feel like wrapping your dogs in fuzzy, foamy pillows.

Class dismissed.

Then, Principal Van Doren called recess, everybody took yearbook photos and Lil Wayne performed at a pep rally in the gymnasium after the marching band.

Too Cool for School

A school daze Q+A with Vans’ Director of Global Footwear Design Rian Pozzebon.

Did you “customize” your sneakers in high school? If so, how?

Rian: My mom would take my brothers and me to the Vans store for our back to school shopping. I had custom ordered my first pair of shoes when I was 12, Style 238, Royal blue Suede with a white outsole. I had only ordered customs a couple times after, only because it took so long. Most of my shoes during Jr. High and High School were discounted, rejected customs that were in bulk on the floor along the walls.

What did you spend the most time doing in homeroom?

Rian: Doodling on top of the paper bag book covers I would make each season. I don’t think kids do this anymore. Those covers were the best.

I only had one minor detention—for skateboarding on campus

We’re not calling you a troublemaker, but if you were to get detention, what would it be for?

Rian: My angle in school was more of a wolf in sheep’s clothing and only had one minor detention—for skateboarding on campus.

What was your best and worst subject?

Rian: I had a fantastic English teacher who exposed the greatness of Literature. Might not have been my best subject, but the one I enjoyed the most.

Phys ed class sneaker of choice?

Rian: I was always in skateboard shoes, so it danced from Airwalk to Vans back in the 80’s and 90’s.

What band or songs would be playing on the boombox back then?

Rian: When I found Jawbreaker, I broke the tape.

Best excuse for cutting class?

Rian: Breakfast burrito.