i 1st met jay back in 2010 when he visited #theothersideofthepillow while visiting from rome. he bought a summerleaf black on red printed style #36. we became solid friends & i quickly learned of his serious connoisseur status. as my obsession with italian distribution of vans crystallised over the years, jay became my source for info on the early italian scene. we dreamed of the halcyon daze of the paninaro vans era in italy & fed on his memories of og wp stores. we thought the scene was but a distant memory. little did we realise what was to surface shortly after in 2012 from that same shop he lusted after as a kid!
yo! you are living in rome, but you grew up in sardinia correct?.... which is where you found the vans right? tell me about your 1st memories of vans in italy & the surf/skate scene in sardinia.
Yeah, born and raised in Sardinia. Now in Rome since a few years. Found the vans in Sardinia, in the basement of an old skateshop. First memories of vans actually are related to the "paninaro" movement, nobody knew they were related to skateboarding, i remember perfectly a small article on a magazine that explained years after why the heel tab had a skateboard on it but prevalently in Italy and Sardinia vans was completely not linked to his origins.
Skaters would use Jordans, hi top leather converses and later on Airwalks. It was just with the 90's and the use of the chukka in skateboard videos that the shoe had is right roots revealed.
Being said so Sardinia had a very early skate and surf scene. it is an Island, first it was a lot of Windsurf in the 80's.... then a lot of wave surfers and skaters. My first introduction to american skateboarding was with the vision of "thrashin" the movie, after that we went with the school to Paris and there were skaters there. i am talking about 84/85.
you have been a great supporter of my operation since day 1 so i know the story well.... but when we 1st met only half the story had as yet unfolded. describe your memories of THE shop in question, what it was like BITD
The shop where i found the vans by the end of the 80s was the only core skate and surf shop in Cagliari, Sardinia. Of course being the only ones they would set the rules, meaning that everything was crazy expensive, but they had everything and they had a tv where they would play the vhs cassettes of the skate videos. You know right now kids are raised on skateboarding so they are pretty used to everything. Back then it was like coming from nothing and then all of a sudden you are in front of a Santa Cruz or Santa Monica Airlines deck, i have always been amazed by the graphics..... then during the 90's everything became more affordable and available, including Vans.
you purchased gear from there in the 80s/90s?
i could not afford to buy new stuff and then i bought used stuff, there was a huge second hand marked due to the fact that most of the stuff costed a lot. i remember buying there chukkas in the 90's and plenty of Es shoes and globe shoes in the 2000's but not much in the 80's.
when did you 1st go back there in search of product? 2005?
yes! the store was on my walk back home. One day walking by i noticed that they had this window with just old made in the usa Vans. It was crazy, i am talking about pure 80s stuff, like a time machine into a 80's skateboard shop window. I was gifted two pairs for my birthday, i went to hunt for more but i couldn't find anything in my size that i liked. I remember also they were not much into selling them, the nature of the shop switched a little from skateboarding and therefore the shoes did not appeal too much to the crowd that was now buying there.
but then after we got to know eachother & got talking..... you again went back right?? this time with more purpose yes?
yeah, me and my friend Ilaria went there a few times cause we understood that the shoes were not been sold completely (out). We asked but it was a little like an unspoken admission, we were told they needed to do an inventory of the shoes before deciding if they wanted to sell them or not.
& what was the result from this visit? what were your eyes witness to? set the scene for me
We went there like 3 times in person with little to none response at first. Through common friends i managed to speak with the son of the owner and i understood that there were some pairs left but most importantly that they were down to sell them! He explained via email how many pairs they had and that they were various sizes. I already couldn't believe it, we agreed on a price and Ilaria went taking them directly. My poker face was behind a screen so it was easier, but i was trying acting cool while inside me i was like "40 plus pairs"???? are you kidding me?? lol
so italy had their own license then to order bulk custom shoes via wp lavori in corso. the stockpile included older wp 'repeat logo' boxes & later 'wave' boxes right. you found 42/44 pairs i believe. from what years? essentially they were designed in italy & made in usa!!
the shoes i believe are from 83/84 maybe some models were a little older but it was the first generation of WP shoes.
what was the most exciting discovery?
The bandanas in 3 colors were rad. also finding again the old scenes too. those shoes are timeless classics.
you have 1 of the worlds biggest personal collections of vans 'scene' printed rubber..... what is it about this that captures you?
i wear a size 7,5 / 8 us. When i was a kid.... I remember not being able to get the shoes that i wanted cause they would run too large for me. also my mom was not going to buy me 20 pairs of shoes just cause i loved the design, lol. that created a monster, when i was able to buy myself shoes i started hoarding, lol. The scenes are my first memory related to vans, again, there was nothing like that before the vans scene.
the stock was mostly chukkas & convertible slip-ons. what do you make of the slip-on convertible? i have never seen come out of the usa & nor in any catalog. maybe an italian exclusive model?!?!?!?!?
I think for that era the convertible was such a rad model. I don't think america would ever get used to wear it or the classic sneaker head. I remember wearing them while stepping into the vans booth at "Magic' in Las vegas in 2006 and the guys were like 'what the hell are those"? it definitely catches the eyes but i believe it has more of a European or Japanese style.
i remember feeling so envious when you reported this discovery but was beyond stoked when you decided to share them. was that always your intention?
The idea was like that we would keep our sizes and ask you if you wanted to have the extra sizes or the doubles, yes it was immediately what i thought when we found the stock. I remember how much you were interested in WP vans.
would you call yourself a collector? what else do you collect?
Not sure about collector, i wear all the shoes i own so i might not be a collector. I collect art when i can afford it and vintage clothing, but it's more like a style, not a real collection. As far as the vans go, it's more than a collection, it's a time machine to an era when skateboarding and music and life in general was terribly good. It makes me feel good to own them, it brings back good memories.
what is it about this era that captures you?
The style of the 70's and beginning of the 80s is crazy cool. The classic dog town skate style is timeless, and then it developed into the 80s with the crazy colors and the end of the 80's and 90's with a more colorful palette. I mean we are talking about the roots of what today we call skateboarding, what is cooler than that?
you actually tried at 1 point to track down original customers of 'surf & co' to buy their old vans right. whats the greatest length you've gone to, to find gold?
well i went to the rose bowl flea market in LA numerous times but never found any vans gold.
have you ever bought vintage off someones back/feet on the street?
no, i usually dig online or from you, never actually met anyone that had vintage vans on their feet :(
how many pairs you have in your collection? do vans make you happy?
around 60 pairs.... made in the usa. Yes.... it's like wearing a part of your infancy.
what is your holy grail van?
anything aqua! i would die for some vintage aqua skate hi or some vintage era.... either with black all over vans logos or the leafs. I need those in my life, lol.
huge thanx to jaz @aMADteaparty
all photos courtesy of jay