How to style slip-on Vans

Vans slip-ons are classics from the late 70s and 80s and became tied up with the hip hop, skating, graffiti, and BMX cultures that swept the world around then. For most of the ones who were around then and those that have followed in their slipstream, it’s the timeless checkerboard design that’s most associated with the slip-on sneaker. We still do that pattern, in different square sizes and colours, but it’s just one of the slip-ons we make. In fact, modern classic slip-on sneakers are found all through the collection – but how do you style them?

What can I wear with slip-on sneakers?

Slip-on sneakers are low profile because there are no tongue or laces to add thickness to the upper. That makes them work with narrow trousers and jeans, plus leggings, skirts and shorts. Leave your ankles open, with or without socks, and you can’t go wrong.

If you’ve scanned Vans’ collection of slip-on sneakers, you’ll notice that none of them are exactly understated. They’re all about living the casual life, having fun and being active, but not taking things too seriously. When you’re wearing these, they can drag the eye downwards, but that’s no bad thing. Don’t try to counteract it with loud trousers and tops – your look will end up far too busy. Let the footwear sneak for itself.

For balanced results, go for quite subdued tones in your leg and upper body – simple narrow canvas or denim pants in a pale brown, beige, blue or black are fine, and a pastel hoodie with minimal statement looks great up top.

What should I wear with Vans checkerboard sneakers?

Because of their unique pattern, Vans checkerboard slip-ons can feel unusual to pair with. Golden rules are to keep trousers narrow or lower legs bare and to try to avoid both checkerboard colours in your legwear or top, apart from in a few picked-out details.

Because they are such a bold design, trying to mimic the colour in trousers can give the impression that your feet are fading out rather than standing out. The effect is magnified with black trousers against black/white checkerboard, so try to avoid it – go for a mid-brightness colour, like a blue, burgundy, mustard or military green.

Coloured checkerboard sneakers open the door to your favourite black pants, though. Just try to bring some contrasting colour to the top half. Your feet are going to stand out whatever you wear with them – ride the wave, they’re not meant to be downplayed.

Are slip-on shoes supposed to be loose?

Without a means of tightening and loosening the shoe, slip-ons need a bit of play to let you get them on and off. The sign of good slip-ons is that they feel naturally snug – not tight, not loose. They shouldn’t fall off when you sit on a wall.

The perfect tightness is achieved through elastic. A few tough elastic panels in the mid-upper should be enough to let the shoe hug your foot without it feeling like it’s being gripped, and just slack enough to allow some movement. Just make sure you get the right size.

What are the most comfortable slip-on sneakers?

The most comfortable slip-on sneakers are designed around the whole foot, not just the upper. Look for a pair that has a decent sole – they’re sneakers, not slippers. Elastication should be firm but flexible. Remember, comfort reveals itself when you’re walking, not sitting in the shoe store.

Vans have an advantage when it comes to slip-on comfort – we’ve been making them for more than 40 years. We’ve picked up what works, whether you’re skating, hanging out or sampling the local bars. You should be able to wear them all day and all night without feeling like you’re making an effort to keep them on. It’s all down to a good fit, quality materials and elastic panels that grip in exactly the right places.

Are vans slip-ons unisex?

Vans slip-on sneakers are bold and confident, so if that’s the kind of footwear you like, it doesn’t matter if you’re a girl, boy, man or woman. Worn with the right trousers, jeans, shorts or a skirt, you just get to show them off and be yourself – whoever you are.

You can search the range of slip-on sneakers by sex if you like – we only arrange them like that to make it easier for men and women to quickly find the ones that are most popular with their own sex.  We’ve found guys tend to go for darker colours and checkerboard, whereas women seem to prefer to push the boat out a bit. But look closely at both collections, and you’ll see they’re more or less the same.

More than checkerboard

Despite their icon status, checkerboard Vans slip-on sneakers are just part of the range of designs. We like to think they form the centrepiece of whatever outfit you’re wearing, so most of them are bold and brave. Let the Vans be your signature, and tone down everything else, and you’ll almost certainly be pulling off the look beautifully. And they don’t always have to be totally casual. Try pairing with a chino suit or workwear if you can – you’ll breeze into any room and make a striking impression.