street art

Founded in 1966 in Anaheim, California, and still family-operated, Vans has grown to represent more than a mere shoe company. We had a chance to tour their headquarters recently, and were treated to a glimpse at the brand’s rich history—which includes Venice’s infamous and revolution-sparking Z-Boys, Sean Penn’s Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the Vans Warped Tour, and countless other legendary collaborators and zeitgeist-shifting moments. Here’s a look inside one of America’s finest surf/skate/counterculture institutions:

Visitor’s badge: check. Homage to Vans founder Paul Van Doren on the way in: double check.

Left: Vans’ mission statement. (You can’t quite tell here, but this resided on a two-story-tall installation.)
Right: A recent winning design from the Vans Custom Culture competition—in which high-school art students from every state receive pure-white Vans as blank canvases for their creativity. Winning designs are manufactured and sold nationwide—and earn money to support their school’s art program.

Left: Big shoes to fill. No, founder Paul was not 30 feet tall—but he did know how to make customers laugh with unique store visuals.
Right: Cool installations tracing the brand’s history, decade by decade, line the halls.

One giant, vaulted-ceiling room at Vans HQ is devoted entirely to one-of-a-kind artworks by the brand’s favorite artists. Each work answers the question: “What does ‘Off the Wall’ mean to you?” This piece by graffiti artist Neck Face might not be attractive in the traditional sense—but we liked what he had to say in the placard beside it.

Left: The back room is a huge warehouse / skate park. We were told blind skateboarder Tommy Carroll was a guest here just days prior, and spent hours skating and sweating in the bowl. He’ll be back for the Vans Pool Party, a pro contest, on May 11.
Right: Past visitors’ shoes dangling from the rafters above.

Left: A display devoted to Vans’ recent Metallica collaboration.
Right: A sketch on a random wall of Tony Trujillo—a pro skater and lover of loud music.

Below: Worlds collide when Tony, his wife Ashley, and Metallica bass player Robert Trujillo meet up, jam, and form the Trujillo Trio. We highly recommend watching this—if nothing else, to marvel at Mrs. Trujillo absolutely shred on drums:

Today, Vans has expanded beyond shoes to produce some truly killer clothing and accessories—from backpacks to board shorts and everything in between. Click the images above or the link below to shop the current collection.



In an homage to the anonymous geniuses who engineered the everyday works of art (like street signs, film stills, and home interiors) that found their way onto Sam Shipley’s and Jeff Halmos’s Spring 2013 inspiration board, the NYC design duo loosely titled their new collection The Unknown Artist.

Despite that (or perhaps because of it), the S&H guys—masters of wry humor as well as rounding out your wardrobe—decided to cast 6 not-so-unknown artists in the stylish faux-portrait above. Below, Sam and Jeff of Shipley & Halmos discuss an artwork by each modern master that has, in some way, influenced their own aesthetic. Click each artist’s name to learn more.

1. Joseph Beuys, I Like America and America Likes Me, 1974. “Beuys as an artist might be as iconic as the works he created. You’ve seen his trademark hat, and always wondered what it would be like to wear one of his felt suit sculptures.”

2. Keith Haring, ‘Crack is Wack’ Mural, 1986. “When driving through Harlem on the way back down to Manhattan, you can see this original Keith Haring mural from 1986, one of the finest examples of graffiti art in the world. So happy the city of NY has kept its condition in such great shape. It’s inspiring each and every time we see it.”

3. Pablo Picasso, Chien, Coq Et Pierrot, 1970. “What can we say about Picasso that hasn’t already been said? The guy was a master, and is almost always a reference point for us. His detailed sketches, such as this one, inspired some of our recent print work.”

4. Roy Lichtenstein, Still Life with Portrait, 1974. “This particular Lichtenstein painting inspired a T-shirt graphic a few seasons back. Our rendition included a frosty beer, hamburger, fries, and framed picture of MJ circa 1988.”

5. Richard Prince, Untitled (From ‘Cowboy’ Series), 1980-1992. “Prince’s Cowboy series is an interesting example of blending classic Americana with a modern pop-art feel. The works are currently being shown [through April 6] at the Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles. As a present-day artist, Prince is so versatile in almost every medium.”

6. David Hockney, A Bigger Splash, 1967. “During the winter doldrums, flip open a book of Hockney’s work (one of Jeff’s personal favorites)—especially his Pool series. The color palette and subject matter instantly reminds you that summer is almost here!”


[Portrait collage and artwork images courtesy of Shipley & Halmos. All artwork is © the artists noted. Individuals featured do not endorse Nordstrom.]