A collection steeped in history
Imagine a collection of Vans that are affiliated with Ray Barbee, Natas Kaupas, and Mark Gonzales… three of the most legendary names in skateboarding. “But Gonz is on Adidas!” I hear you say.
Why would he have anything to do with a new collection of Vans? And how on Earth has Natas been roped into this as well? Well, Vans has teamed up with both Krooked Skateboards and Natas Kaupas to create a collection that celebrates the career and legacy of Ray Barbee.
At the tail end of last year, Ray left Element and officially announced his new home would be Mark Gonzales’, Krooked. This got a lot of people hyped, Ray Barbee is a legend and seeing him on a Krooked deck just looks so right. Especially considering the ad for the announcement was Ray doing a frontside Ollie at the San Berno bank spot, which has been unskateable since ’88/’89. This is a nod to another legend, Neil Blender, who had a photo in ’84 at the same spot doing the same trick, shot by J. Grant Brittain.
This collection is a true throwback to an era where these guys were all at the top of their game, innovating new tricks and introducing the world to street skating.
Everything about the design and release of this collection has been so on point, even Vans themselves have said, “honestly, we still don’t know how we got so lucky”. Getting a collab collection with Krooked is very cool, but getting Natas to do the art design for the collection is insanely rad. As mentioned earlier, the people involved in this couldn’t have been more influential in skateboarding over the years. Basically, three godfathers of modern street skating have teamed up to create this celebration of Ray collection.
Packed with Vans’ skate technology
So, what is in this collection? As you can imagine, the shoes in this drop are all timeless classics. We have the Old-Skool’s and the Sk8-Hi’s, as well as a hoodie thrown into the mix, just for good measure. The shoes are of course part of the Vans Skate collection, which means they have all the bells and whistles attached.
Features such as Vans’ famous Duracap™ and Popcush™ insoles are incorporated into these shoes, as you would expect. However, last year, Vans did a huge revamp of their skate specific shoes, which means these also come with a lot of modern technology built into the classic silhouettes. The new SickStick™ gum rubber compound gives you the best grip from Vans yet, something I’ve never had a problem with in the past, but the added grip is always welcomed. Internal tongue straps and moulded heel counter are a massive addition to Vans’ new skate collection, gifting the skater a shoe that not only hugs your foot but also gives the rider a greater board feel due to the improved fit. Vans have had the silhouettes nailed for years now, but they are never going to slow down when it comes to improving the performance of their shoes.
Aesthetically, Natas has made sure these really stand out from the crowd, without being garish or overly loud. Mainly utilising the canvas side panels of the two shoes, Natas has used a colour combination of blue, red and black as well as seemingly taking inspiration from the iconic Ragdoll graphic from Ray Barbee’s Powell days. This is tied together with some classic Krooked eyes placed on the heads of the characters. With the classic black suede front and rear panels surrounding the designs to the side, these shoes possess a combination of individuality alongside understated cool. A rare and hard thing to find in shoes, especially in this day and age of lurid colourway ‘skate’ shoes, designed for re-sale rather than skating.
Vans have acknowledged the importance of their heritage, as well as the legacy of the skaters that have helped keep them so relevant over the years. Releasing a collaboration with Krooked and Natas is a perfect way to help encourage the newer generations of skaters to look into the past and appreciate the work put in by the innovators of modern skating. These shoes are designed for Ray, and to celebrate everything he has done for skating. However, for me, these shoes go much deeper than that, these are a celebration of not only Ray Barbee, but also Natas Kaupas, Neil Blender, Mark Gonzales and everyone else that spearheaded one of the most exciting times of street skateboarding.