Vans is known for marching to the beat of its own drum. The sneaker brand’s most popular shoes—the Old Skool and the Slip-On—haven’t changed much over the years, and Vans has never been one to chase trends. That’s precisely why so many sneakerheads, fashion fans, and regular people love to wear their shoes. But that isn’t to say the brand doesn’t like to mix things up; just this year we’ve seen new colors of a beloved collaboration with Engineered Garments as well the revival of the perfectly retro Epoch Sport. But this is something different: one new shoe suggests that even Vans couldn’t resist the allure of the chunky sneaker trend.
The new sneaker—dubbed the Varix WC—looks like a mash-up of a puffy skate shoe from the early aughts and the new-wave ugly-chic designer sneaker that we’ve seen so much of over the past year. The multi-paneled upper is intricate and eye-catching, and features enough colors at least nine, by my count) to make even the most outlandish versions of Balenciaga’s Triple S look toned down. There’s also a black-and-tan colorway that feels less gaudy, but not by much. The silhouette itself is inspired by old tech-heavy Vans sneakers from the late 1990s and early 2000s, but it’s been updated to include the label’s trademark “wafflecup” bottom and an ultra-cushioned drop-in sockliner for added comfort. Between the oversize shape and flamboyantly colored upper, the shoe feels very of the current sneaker moment—even coming from as unexpected a source as Vans.
The Varix will likely catch many diehard Vans fans by surprise. The brand has quietly become a footwear juggernaut, outgrowing its skate roots and embedding itself across generations and within both in-the-know fashion and everyday style, but Vans has done so by ignoring trends and playing by its own rules. It feels a little off to see such a garish design from the makers of such effortlessly stylish shoes, but if the world of sneakers has taught us one thing this year, it’s to expect the unexpected.