Who is Geoff Rowley?
Before we talk about the Vans Rowley reissue, let’s talk a little about the shoe’s namesake, just in case you happen to be a member of Gen Z and don’t know what all the fuss is about!
Geoff Rowley was born and raised in Liverpool and once he started skating he just didn’t stop. Eventually acquiring a few decent sponsors, one being Deathbox skateboards, who later became the infamous Flip skateboards. In 1994, Rowley had moved to California with some other Flip riders that included the likes of Tom Penny and Rune Glifberg. From there on out Rowley steadily rose to the top, becoming a member of a small group of skaters that changed skateboarding forever during the mid to late 1990s. Think Muska, Koston, Mullen, Song, Thomas, Penny… Geoff and this cohort pushed skateboarding to a whole new level from which there was no turning back.
This eventually led to Geoff getting his first pro shoe with Vans in 1999 going on to become Thrasher’s “Skater of the Year” that same year. By 2002 his Flip ‘Sorry’ part came out. This video would go on to be one of the most famous, loved and quoted skate videos of all time. Even compared to the level of skating we see today, you can watch any part from that video and be blown away. If you haven’t seen it, trust me and watch it.
The roots of the Rowley shoe
Originally released in 1999, the Rowley has been one of the most iconic and timeless shoes in skating. This shoe was arguably the catalyst for the re-introduction of slimmer, vulcanised shoes back into skateboarding during the mid-2000s. Geoff Rowley was wearing a lot of the Vans Classics around this time and was a big advocate of the basic vulcanised shoe.
One of the gnarliest clips from this time of skating is Rowley’s 50-50 grind down the chest-high “Clipper ledge” in a pair of Eras. This was featured in a Vans ad in 1999 and then later seen in Flip skateboard’s ‘Sorry’ skateboard video. Still to this day only a handful of people have touched that ledge. When doing this, Rowley managed to single-handedly show the world of skateboarding that bulky, fat cup sole shoes were not your only option of skate shoes which was a contrarian view during that period.
A timeless design
Since its original release, the Rowley has had some minor changes throughout the years, and even some one-off versions such as the Rowley Rapidweld, released in 2019 for the 20th anniversary of the shoe.
However, for 2021 Vans are going back to the roots of the shoe, returning to the original colourway of Black/White/Red and Navy/White, plus vulcanised waffle grip sole and returning to padding out the tongue. Not only does the padding protect the top of your foot, it really does give the shoe its original shape back. A perfect combination of a slightly wider traditional skate shoe, with a slim vulc sole, increasing both board-feel and grip – something we all know Geoff prioritised.
There are still modern features to this shoe, the incredible Popcush footbed insole, designed to take high impact and help you skate for longer has been added. Not only that but the shoe-saving “Duracap” toe protection has also been added, increasing the life of the shoe and saving your bank account! With leather uppers and double-panel stitching, these shoes are designed to last and perform to the highest standard.
There are some really nice subtle details too. For example, the debossed “66/99” logo on the heel, which represents both the date Vans launched as a brand and the date the shoe was introduced for the first time.
This shoe has been around for 22 years and has evolved along the way, but this iteration really does feel and look like the original 1999 Rowley’s and it is obvious from all the finishing touches Vans have spent some time on bringing the design back to life. With the additional modern features, this is a heritage shoe with top of the line performance, the best of both worlds! Just putting them on makes you want to stick on a Grey Matter song, channel your inner Rowley and find the biggest Hubba you can to 50 down.