Supreme is very selective when it comes to who they collaborate with. Having recently introduced their collection with Dr. Martens, our latest #HSTBT explores their first ever melding of their sensibilities with another brand.

Let’s be completely honest: Supreme could release a shoe box with no shoes in them – bill them as a collaboration with The Emperor’s New Clothes – and people would still probably be enthusiastic to sell the air inside on eBay for a huge markup. Their recent understated collaboration with Dr. Martens continues the footwear tradition of allowing the heritage of the original to exist without much Supreme branding. If this feels like a common formula for the streetwear brand, it’s because their first-ever collaboration contained similar sensibilities as their latest does.

Debuting nearly four decades ago, the Vans Sidestripe started as a random doodle by Vans Founder Paul Van Doren. Over the years the simple motif has evolved into a symbol of the brand’s heritage and was first realized on their iconic model, the Old Skool.

Photo credit: squaretofu / Flickr

Billed as the first skate shoe to implement leather into its construction, the Old Skool instantly became a favorite among skateboarders of the Dogtown era in Venica, California, as well as early BMX riders who longed for something more durable as they pushed the boundaries on what was possible to achieve on two wheels.

With the popularity of the Old Skool exploding in the 1980s, Steve Van Doren, son of Vans Founder Paul Van Doren and current VP of Events and Promotions at Vans, noticed consumer’s thirst for personal specificity.

“Customization for the Old Skool became very popular in the early ‘80s because there were so many parts you could change in terms of colors and patterns,” Van Doren said.

As Vans notes, “From that point forward, the notion of footwear as an expression of personality has grown into an integral part of the Vans DNA.”

Photo credit: squaretofu / Flickr

Vans and Supreme initiated the long-lasting Vans x Supreme range nearly 20 years ago with a trio of Old Skools in white, grey and camo colorways. “The Old Skool is iconic, classic skate,” said Supreme’s James Jebbia. “In 1996, it was one of the best shoes offered by Vans and really stood the test of time.”

In addition to marking Supreme’s foray into collaboration, it was also one of the first projects enlisted to then-Design Director, Brendon Babenzien – who has since gone on to recommit to his brand, Noah, which first launched in 2002.

“It was just one of the first things that James asked me to do,” Babenzien recalled to Complex. “[Jebbia] said, ‘Color some Vans.’ That might have been one of the first things I worked on there. I don’t know why I remember it that way, but who knows.”

In May of 2015, Supreme and Vans once again solidified their working relationship with a reintroduction of the Old Skool with updated aesthetics. Presented with a premium perforated leather upper with leather lining and insole, the black, white, coral orange, and bright blue colorways once again honored the idea that overt Supreme branding isn’t always a necessity when the basis for the collaboration is steeped in tradition.

Words by Alec Banks
Features Editor

Alec Banks is a Los Angeles-based long-form writer with over a decade of experience covering fashion, music, sports, and culture.

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