pillowHeat x sneaker freaker ¬ BIG SHOES TO FILL ~ the history of vans clown shoes March 28 2015



BIG SHOES TO FILL ~ a short history of vans clown shoes

from a brand who's tag line is off the wall & who from the beginning were renowned for playful antics & a goofball attitude.... is it actually a surprise that vans made clown shoes?? when you understand the grass roots of where the van doren rubber company began, you soon realsie that anything goes when trying to build your name from scratch in the footwear industry.

starting from small beginnings the brand had big shoes to fill so to speak & the 1st incarnation of vans clown shoes were produced for squeaky the clown. squeaky was part of the late 60's retail family, wherein he would accompany the van dorens at instore promos & grand openings making baloon animals for example. starting from zero paul van doren could not afford advertising in the early days & would rely on word of mouth to 'tell a friend about vans'. in the same way word spread like wild heat amongst skaters & bmx heads in years to come, so too did word spread amongst (insane) clown posses. initially vans were producing generic style #24 (all-star-like) hi-tops in size 16 but moving into the 70s clowns were wanting bigger shoes to fill & sparked by an employee with a clown fetish, vans began producing their low-top, super wide, cold cure clown shoe called the flapper.... & the rest is checkered history!

so you may be picturing a mini minor pulling up outside the vans factory & hundreds of clowns climbing out to the sound of the beatles being for the benefit of mr kite.... but we are still talking a relatively small-scale operation here. however when you allow provide-your-own-material clown shoe customs, when you begin making mid & high top clown shoes & when ronald mcdonald comes knock knocking, id say you've made it in the niche market of clown shoes. the shoes themselves were not vulcanised like the classic made in usa waffles & instead cold cure compounds most often bonded to full grain leather uppers in all combinations of colourways. at a time when vans deck shoes were being sold at $10, a 3-tone leather high top clown shoe cost $60 & remained THE most expensive piece of footwear vans were to produce during the handmade era! the shoes themselves actually featured a style #44 (authentic) deck shoe embedded within the clown shoe, around which they were reinforced with foam padding. a shoe within a shoe as such.

vans made clown shoes roughly for 14 year period but in what sort of numbers is anyones guess. how far would you go for a pair of original pair of 3-tone checkerboard flappers? probably not very far. & as for what length i went to for mine (stay tuned for 'stock hunting 101', my sneaker hunting tutorial in the next issue). otherwise pennywise, there is currently a pair on ebay for $1500.... & i dont suggest accepting a baloon from a clown in a storm water drain even if he does wear vans. he may look it, but coulrophobia is far from cool.