How Slip-On Vans Went From Emo Classics To The 'It' Shoes Of Summer 2024

slip on vans
Are Slip-On Vans The Sambas Of Summer 2024?courtesy vans x proenza schouler

Welcome to Reality Check: a new regular franchise from the ELLE fashion editors that asks: how well do the season's biggest trends really work in the wild? This week, we take a look at the comeback of Vans this summer.

In the latest edition of 'teenage trends that are having a fashion comeback', it seems that Vans are fast becoming the style set's summer shoe of choice. No, this is not a drill: it's officially time to dust off those emo-era slip-ons of yore, and start inserting them into your wardrobe rotation once more.

We know that nostalgia has been high on the fashion agenda for a while now – capri pants, ballet shoes, bag charms, polo shirts, cutesy hair bows and anything Y2K are practically de rigueur these days – but ever since Rishi Sunak single-handedly stripped Sambas of their street cred, there's been a real gap in the market for easy, everyday footwear with a retro appeal. Enter, Vans' classic checkerboard slip-ons: as versatile, comfortable, low-key and timeless as adidas' iconic trainers, but with an irresistible throwback Noughties skater edge.


Since being spotted on the likes of Emily Ratajkowski, Sofia Richie, the Olsens and Renggli designer Morgan Stewart McGraw recently, interest in the shoes has spiked. Google searches for the classic checkerboard styles have increased by 5,000% in the past 90 days, while over on TikTok, videos about the trend have surpassed 41.6 million. And further proof of Vans' moment in the style spotlight is the brand's collaboration with Proenza Schouler: a modern, luxurious reinterpretation of the iconic slip-on, that dropped online just last month.

First released in 1977, Vans' Classic Slip-Ons have been synonymous with SoCal cool and youth culture ever since, reaching cult status in large part thanks to Sean Penn's rebellious character in the 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High. And while longtime proponents of the indie sleaze aesthetic such as Kristen Stewart, Olivia Wilde, Gwen Stefani and Avril Lavigne have been been sporting their slip-ons religiously for decades now, the rest of us are most likely to have only enjoyed a brief flirtation with the style.

'I had a massive crush on Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy back in my school days, so in an attempt to look like his then-wife Ashlee Simpson, I’d wear my pink and black checkerboard Vans with a t-shirt from Punkyfish (what a throwback) and a ridiculously sweeping side fringe,' recalls Natalie Zannikos, ELLE UK's Senior Fashion Coordinator. 'I remember stomping into town wearing them so much that they got a hole in them, blasting Panic! At The Disco and Avril Lavigne on my bright pink iPod Nano. Those were the days!'

slip on vans
Daniel Zuchnik - Getty Images

If this sounds familiar, you've probably got your very own pair of mildly battered and faded Vans languishing in a long-forgotten corner of your wardrobe, untouched since your teens. But now that they've finally pivoted from subversive to stylish, it's high time to bring them back out for a spin – albeit with some 2024 updates.

The Proenza x Vans collab slip-ons, featuring exaggerated proportions and crafted in fine leather, lend themselves perfectly to the 'quiet luxury'-esque oversized tailoring, crisp shirts and easy-breezy linen separates that are dominating this season.

Or, if you'd prefer to recycle your old classics (or swap them for a brand-new pair), take a leaf out of Sofia Richie, Emily Ratajkowski and Hailey Bieber's sartorial handbooks by pairing with slouchy, light-wash jeans, a tee, sunglasses and the designer bag of the moment. You can even lean into the shoes' skater-girl associations and style with summer's ubiquitous long denim shorts – just make sure to add a contrasting elevated element to avoid going overboard.

slip on vans trend
Christian Vierig - Getty Images

Alternatively, if you're prepared to jump head-first back in to your former self, Vans can offer the perfect final touch to a full-throttle Y2K look. 'Given Vans are so synonymous with a particular era, why not lean into all those stereotypical sartorial tropes?' says Zannikos. 'I’ll be doing an updated take on Y2K, and styling mine now with low-rise denim that just hits the hips, a baby tee and some wraparound sunglasses.'

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