Supreme Vans: A History of Collaborations
To understand the story of Supreme Vans collaborations is to get at the core of hype. The footwear industry boasts several instances when subtle marketing techniques lead to huge results.
Limiting supply, bringing big-name collaborators, it’s all part of the game. And yet, there are levels even there. Sure, picking out a fashion heavyweight for a project partner usually does the trick.
But, it’s an entirely different ball game when that partner happens to be one of the most hype-worthy names in the world of fashion. The Supreme Vans journey effectively begins with one word: audacity.
James Jebbia, Supreme’s understated founder, could very well be the most audacious man in streetwear. For starters, his origin story includes journeying to New York from the U.K. in the early 80s with just $100 to his name – at the age of 19.
Ask Jebbia, and he’ll tell you it was nothing. «New York at that time was very inexpensive, and it was very easy to get a job,» he said in an interview with GQ.
It’s that sort of thinking – rendering him seemingly oblivious to his challenges – that paves Supreme’s way. Even the notion of a Supreme Vans collection was a bit of a pipe dream for the smaller of the two brands.
Kicking Things Off in ’96
Perhaps the most intriguing element of this partnership is how much change each brand goes through individually. Specifically, what shifts is the power dynamic when it comes to their positions within skate culture.
In 1996, when the Supreme x Vans Old Skool first releases, things are a bit different. Supreme is still trying to find its footing.
It’s still a small operation trying to stick to making quality goods for skaters. Shoes are far from being in their future at this point in time.
Sure, Jebbia speaks of his early vision often these days, but the early going doesn’t include sneaker heat. The Old Skool changes this because it was probably the best way to kick off this partnership.
For the good folks over at Vans, this is the standard bearer for all of their footwear designs. For the Vans x Supreme collection, it proves to be the first subtle piece of what goes on to represent the very height of hype.
This banger of a collab drops as a completely American made shoe. Additionally, the overwhelming majority of the Supreme Vans Old Skool was pretty standard. But, the highlight is the Red box branding along the shoe’s lace eyestay.
It makes for a heck of a preview as the oncoming releases represent some vivid imagination. Unfortunately, it’s an eight-year wait until the two come together yet again.
Gaining Their Footing
But, of course, they do it big. In 2004, the pair gets together again for a whopping collection of twelve Supreme Vans in an assortment of colorways. The Old Skool is once again part of this drop, this time joining the Sk8-Hi for a pretty unique release.
In the eight years since their first drop, Supreme manages to develop a reputation for outlandish design that always seems just slightly ahead of its time.
They reflect this sensibility in that 2004 release, dressing each shoe in a graphic depicting FBI documents. After absolutely setting the Supreme Vans Spring lineup on fire, they go and manage to release even more for that year.
2004 rounds the corner with an autumn theme release of the Half Cab and Chukka Boot. Each receives the Supreme treatment and takes it on fluently.
In 2005, we see more fire thanks to new patterns on some oldies. Once again, the Old Skool and Sk8-Hi are the main focus of that year’s drop. This time, a graphic of Black Stars take up the majority of the room on the uppers.
The varying executions here are quite interesting, seemingly taking advantage of each model’s different build. The Sk8-Hi employs more flamboyant patterning and contrasting side stripes. Meanwhile, the Old Skool boasts much smaller Black stars.
2006 and 2007 see more of a focus on the Half Cab. These Supreme vans release in some very boisterous color schemes. 2006, somehow, includes the release of three seasonal drops from Vans and Supreme.
It’s worth noting that these releases include some imaginative interpretations of the Sk8-Hi model as well.
Yet, the highlight of this collection is the intriguing use of the Vans checkerboard graphic on the Half Cab. A creative combination of colors and patterning sees the shoe’s upper transform into something almost abstract and artistic.
Following that was a year that sees a massive release of Supreme Vans. 2007 is littered with more Half Cab, Chukka Boot, and Old Skool heat.
Again, Supreme adopts patterns gracefully, fitting the Old Skool and Chukka Boot in dots. The Half Cab gets another tonal look that year, taking a break from the previous extravagance.
The years to follow include more variations of the same shoes we mention above. The one brief exception is the use of the Era model. But, in 2011, fans get something a little more interesting.
Re-branding a Fallout
That year’s collection of Supreme Vans, once more, centers around the Old Skool to bring it back to where it all starts. But, this time around, Supreme also throws in an old-school gem: the MC.
This was the last shoe made for Mike Carroll before he left Vans for a DC sponsorship deal. In one of the most Supreme-ish moves imaginable, not only do they decide to bring the shoe back, they also swap out Carroll’s signature on the tongue with the Supreme box logo.
For the next nearly a decade to follow, Supreme opts to test out some truly remarkable patterning on Vans classics.
Prints and Things
Going from the good old Skater shoe to some Supreme Vans meant that there had to be some brash designs involved. Some of the highlights there include the Floral look. Working with artist Peter Saville, Supreme decks the Old Skool out in a bold floral print.
It’s that sort of move that prompts the design of contemporary Supreme Vans. The Sk8-Mid makes a rare appearance in 2017 and takes on premium suede and leopard print. Even before then, in 2015, the partners were experimenting with camouflage on the Sk8-Mid and Old Skool models.
Figuring that, it’s hardly a surprise to see their work in 2018 include a Skull pile graphic pattern on the Old Skool. It would also not be a surprise to see much more Supreme Vans dropping in the near future.