In recent years, brands have looked to the past, not just for inspiration, but to resurface archival designs. Converse’s retro Chuck 70 sneakers, Nike’s Blazer Mid ’77 Vintage sneakers as well as a host of other examples are bringing back an era of designs we didn’t know we needed. These reintroductions aren’t just visually striking, though. They’re often noticeably upgraded. In price and in quality, these revival sneakers seem to be elevated as the upgraded version of the mainline product.
Vans introduced its vintage-inspired sublabel, Vault by Vans, back in 2003. It was a way for the brand to focus on its archival designs while also collaborating with revered designers and select shops. The runs are often limited to just 1500 pairs and sometimes even just 500 pairs, a microscopic number compared to its daily output.
The sublabel has become the obsession of sneakerheads around the world, and now, it’s cemented as Vans’ premium lineup. As such, the sneakers are generally a notch up in price from the mainline versions, about $20-$30. But is the price worth it? Which version is right for you? We compared two styles to find out.
Vans Classic Old Skool
Fabric: The fabric is nearly the same in the two sneakers, but it surprisingly feels a bit more substantial in the Classic. The suede panels don’t have the interesting texture present in the Vault version and are more of a nubuck than a suede.
Insole: The insole is thin, but spongey. The lining is made with a faux leather vinyl.
Sole: Though both the Vault and the Classic have the iconic Vans waffle rubber sole, the Classic’s are definitely not as thick.
Rubber/Foxing: The rubber sidewalls are a bright white with a black stripe. They’re a tad shorter overall compared to the Vault version.
Laces: The laces are somewhat of a loose weave, stark white lace.
Silhouette/Sizing: The larger cap toe and shorter rubber sidewalls give the Classic a longer and somewhat leaner look than the slightly chunkier silhouette of the Vault sneaker.
Vault by Vans OG Old Skool
Upper: The upper canvas is tightly woven and smooth. It feels a touch lighter than the Vans Classic. The suede detailing is soft and pliable but has a slightly more pronounced nap compared to the classic Old Skools.
Insole: The insole does feel a touch softer, but it’s almost negligible. What is a significant difference, however, is the lining. Here, the Vault by Vans uses pigskin leather for the lining as well as the cushion on the heel of the insole. While that doesn’t mean it’ll stand up to leather shoes like a pair of Red Wings, it’ll last longer than the vinyl linings seen on the Vans Classics.
Sole: Here, the signature waffle sole actually feels noticeably thicker. It does make the sneakers feel somewhat heavier, but we’re not talking about a heavy boot. It’s still light enough that you likely won’t notice. If anything, the heavier weight feels more premium.
Foxing: A big difference with Vault by Vans is the foxing, the rubber side walls. They’re noticeably higher than Vans Classics, which gives the shoe better stability and longevity.
Laces: The laces are slightly off-white, which adds to the vintage feel.
Shape/Sizing: Though the silhouette of the shoe is certainly narrower and more sculpted, the difference in the sizing is so slight. For me, I stuck with the same size between both versions.
Which One Is Right for You?
Vans Classic Old Skool: Go with Vans Classics if you like the price and the look. The modern iteration has been in the lineup for a long time and is what most people picture when they think of the style. In other words, it’s the classic. It’s more affordable and more widely available than its Vault counterpart, too.
Vault by Vans OG Old Skool: You may not be a sneakerhead, but it’s hard to argue with the retro pair over the Classic. Though the upgrades might seem trivial, they’re really upgraded where it counts. Plus, the silhouette and slight tweaks give it a more balanced proportion that’s really appealing. The biggest issue, if it’s not the price or the aesthetics, is actually getting your hands on a pair. Vault by Vans produces its shoes in very limited quantities and they’re only distributed to select retailers and boutiques. It’s not even offered on the Vans website. For some, though, that only adds to the appeal.