pillowHeat x sneakers MAG ¬ under the RADar ¬ scene & not herd! ~ the history of vans print & friction scene March 06 2015
printed canvas has played a huge part in the evolution of the vans brand however to tell the story we have to set the 'scene' so to speak. legend has it that the legend himslef steve van doren noticed high school kids using magic marker to colour in the white midsole of their deck shoes with checkerboard pattern. this was then reported back to van doren seniors who eventually began working with printed checkerboard canvas.... & the rest is (checkered) history!
it was the early 80's when some fortuitous product placement within popular culture thrust vans & namely the checkerboard print into the mainstream of consciousness. with 1 swift movement by 1 jeff spicoli, who proceeded to move audiences by whacking himself around the head with a box fresh pair of style #98 checkerboard slip-ons after lunging of a bowl of weed.... the mainstream suddenly had flow! as such, it was all aboard the checkerboard which dictating the 'fast times' of the era, facilitated the evolution of vans prints to ever greater depths. what started with simple checkerboard, stripes & logo prints soon progressed into intricate canvasses of disney characters, dinosaurs & skate pirates.... with everyhting conceivable in betweeen.
of course custom made prints were possible from the very beginning of the house of vans operation in 1966, as long as you provided your own fabric print. henceforth as the 80's progressed so too did the option for custom made printed uppers available instore or by mail order. 1 was either faced with a shoelace-bound sample book of printed canvas tongues or a mail order palette of the spectrum of available designs. of course this was not the limit of vans prints as we have seen many variations on a theme from commercial collaborations to 1-off combinations. prints became so popular & endemic to the brand identity that many became stock option shoes available on the shelves instore, to the point where it became difficult to tell a custom from a shelf stock option.
the addition of the printed rubber scene, aka foxing/friction tape/side wall, & later printed canvas, equipped vans with the necessary arsenal to take the simple circular vamp oxford deck shoe to the high water mark it has reached today. as a 1970's concept however the printed scene was groundbreaking & light years ahead of its time & one which has since been imitated but never quite capitalised upon. its quite incredible that rubber scene art in fact preceded the canvas art, & more incredible that printed rubber foxing has since become somewhat a lost art. of course pre-etnies skate brand etnics utilised foxing prints, & nike loved the speckled midsole of 90s acg but it still remains an untapped resource of sorts.
since stateside departure of production circa 1995, vans have flirted with the re-hash of printed scenes over the years including several RAD reissues however the multiplicity of scene by scene at their disposal remains still untapped, & thus remain scene & not herd.... so to speak. in the early days of scene evolution the imagination inspired only simple manifestations in the way of checkerboard, & other simple text & abstractions. paul van doren would entertain colouring competitions inviting the kids to suggest their own design alternatives & after they saw multiple rainbow entries, or hearts suggestions then these ideas would soon materialise on rubber. nothing can match the undiluted stream of consciousness of the mind of youth except maybe paul van dorens genius, & as such the designs became more & more elaborate as we entered the decade of (in)xs that was the 80's.
the boom of bmx & skate in 80's saw all manner of landsacpe, portrait, pattern & sketch scenes grip the pedals at the starting gate & grind across the coping of vert & pool. at the crest of the high & beautiful wave that vans was riding you could see scenes commisioned for independent events, corporate companies & commercial brands. in addition to customising your very own colour/print combinations on most models throughout the 80's, for an additional $1 you could pick the scene of your choice to compliment or contrast those flavours. the early scenes like checkerboard were accompanied only by TM markings, however soon every scene was designated a reference whereby on the mail order catalog you could tailor your midsole with anything from unicorns or the confedarate flag to license plates or logos.
at the peak of custom culture the scene featured the infamous turtle-necked frenchman complete with beret, goatee & clap board. this guy deserves a clap because when he announces to 'action' his favourite scene, he brings out the connoisseur in us all. entering the 90's the scene was used less as a custom option & instead sparingly on stock option collabs & releases like the disney collection or the odd pirate skull sighting. the charming frenchman was nowhere to be seen however in favour of a boring 2 letter reference however sometimes conveniently a date.
we will henceforth endeavour to bring to a wider audience what was once so prominent & has since gone under the RADar & as such make a lost art available again for purchase. there is something intangible about the integrity of the printed scene of original made in usa vans. to say it has to be scene to be believed is an understatement. to appreciate this lost art it has to be held, felt, worn, & thrashed to be truly appreciated. what's my scene? vans scene!