Vans Old Skool Yacht Club: 2 Year Review
- Price: $60 MSRP
- Pros: Great colors, great price
- Cons: Not as comfortable as other sneakers, materials hard to maintain
The Vans Old Skool, originally known as the #36, is one of those classic shoes that everyone has probably owned at some point. One of the later designs from Van’s classic line, the shoe took what worked from previous skate shoes they have made – the padded collar, the thin sole, etc. – and added the leather strips on the side for additional wear protection. That same strip, which started off as a random shape doodled by the founder, has now become a classic symbol of the Vans brand.
This history has led to the Old Skool being one of the silhouettes that Vans will use for some of their bolder color blocking. You can find Old Skools with checks of every color, flames, flowers, lighting bolts, whatever this is, or you can even make a combination of many of these officially through vans. Knowing that, it isn’t surprising that the brand selected them to serve as the base for these brightly colored, nautically inspired “yacht clubs”.
The Vans Old Skool Yacht Club demands attention. There are details that are interesting, but the first thing you notice are the colors.
Starting at the toe, the first panel is a royal blue suede. This material is very soft to the touch, but extremely delicate, both in wear and tear as well as color retention. While these shoes have never seen the rain, they did see one damp sidewalk. Even with just that there are permanent dots on this panel that will not go away.
It didn’t come with this pair, but newer versions of the shoe actually come with a warning label saying that if you get the shoe wet expect the color to bleed. This blue is continued up through the lace holes where you can see fairly substantial fraying along the edge. The fraying is most noticable near the toe where the shoe is more likely to bend, and discoloration where the shoelaces have rubbed the suede.
Behind the blue suede, the majority of the shoe is made up of a green canvas. Unlike most of the rest of the shoe, this material seems extremely strong, if a bit rough to the touch. This type of canvas does have a tendency to bleach out a bit over time, so the green has lost a bit of it’s punch since first coming out of the box. On top of this green panel, the “jazz stripe” is a synthetic white leather.
The heel of the Vans Old Skool Yacht Club is covered by a yellow panel, made from the same material as the blue toe box. Unlike the fraying on the blue panel, the structure of the heel cap has kept this from moving and it is still in great shape. The tongue of the shoe is a vibrant red, matching the footbed. Inside a white lining peaks out around the collar.
The midsole of the shoe is the classic Van’s bright white, and shows scuffs fairly easily. Underneath, to no surprise, is the gum waffle sole that Van’s uses as one of their signatures.
These shoes come with both the classic flat laces, but also the round laces that are visible in the pictures. These laces are unique to the yacht club, and help set the shoe apart even more. The round laces give a more playful vibe to the shoe, a look you might as well own with something as bright as these shoes, though the aglets (the metal bit at the end) have discolored to a yellow over the years.
Fit & Comfort:
Vans shoes tend to fit wider than a lot of sneakers, and with the comparative lack of structure there is a good amount of wiggle room in sizing. For me, I wear a full size down (12) compared to Nikes (13). This is the same size that I wear in most goodyear welt shoes like the Allen Edmonds Park Ave. This size is mostly because the narrow widths most Nikes come in require quite a bit of space in front of my toe. Thankfully, these are a good bit wider and I can fit much better in this pair. If you’re feet are narrow it probably makes sense to go a half size down from your Nikes instead. To learn more about why sizing on these shoes can change so much, click here.
The comfort on the Vans Old Skool Yacht Club is pretty bad overall. The same thin sole that allow skaters to feel the board also means that there isn’t much to protect you from the ground. Pretty much the only padding comes from the insole that compresses down after a dozen wears or so. The saving grace for these is that the construction and materials allow for the shoe to be very non-restrictive. They will conform to your feet. This generally means that the shoe has a minimalist feel, good for a quick run to the store or a walk.
While not stiff out of the box, the shoes do have a break in period. The construction of the shoe, which heavily uses glue and other adhesives as well as materials that have a tendency to stretch out, means that over the first few wears the construction materials heat up and end up shaping to your particular foot. After a couple of weeks, the shoes will very much feel “yours”.
If you’re looking to speed the process up, you can heat them up before the first time you wear them. Some people stick them in a microwave, but putting them near a radiator for a few minutes will work better. Just be careful not to let them get too hot. If the tape used to hold the shoe together separates then the shoe is toast.
The wear and tear of the upper materials were key to how these shoes have developed over time, and were mentioned above, but there are a few additional items to note, particularly on midsole and outsole. Vans makes their outsoles out of vulcanized rubber, a process of heating up rubber to harden it. Vulcanized rubber can’t be shapped in the way normal rubber can, meaning Vans can’t use traditional cup soles.
Instead, the upper of the shoe is constructed separately, and then glued onto the gum colored rubber. This combination is then tapped together with something called foxing tape. Foxing tape is the white rim that you see around the midsole. This tape is what ultimately holds the shoe together, and why one of the failure points on Vans (and Converse All Stars, which use the same construction) is the tape separating from the upper at the flex point. Vans protects this tape by adding a red “off the wall” rubber piece to prevent the tape from unraveling.
Up front, the tape is covered with a textured rubber piece in case the toe hits something and could take a chunk out of the tape.
Elsewhere, an extremely thin and plastically fake leather is around collar of the shoe. This is very good at keeping it’s color, but tends to get sticky in the summer and would probably be better off as a mesh. Around your ankle is a padded ring. Originally designed to protect your ankle from a skateboard, it’ll hold up fine to daily wear.
Further down inside the shoe, the white cloth lining keeps your foot from the exterior leather. It does the job it needs to do.
Ease of Care:
For the vast majority of Vans Old Skools, the ease of care would be the best it could be. The canvas material they are made of is extremely water and dirt repellant. The only thing you need to clean is the white midsole tape.
The Vans Old Skool Yacht Club, however, are not like the vast majority. The suede material that they use is so delicate that these are shoes you really need to plan ahead to wear. (In addition to finding an outfit that does with such a bright colorway). Is it going to rain? Did it rain yesterday? Is it dusty? Could someone spill water or a drink on my feet? Could someone step on my shoe? If the answer to any of these is “yes” you can’t really wear the shoes without constantly worrying about them. Not a great feeling for what are essentially a cheap sneaker.
Retailing for $60, when these first came out they were incredibly hard to get. They were actually reselling for quite a bit over retail. StockX shows that in May of 2018 pairs were regularly selling for more than $170 dollars.
Today, while a bit harder than most colors, you can occasionally find them on sale. The easiest way to find a discount is through the Foot Sites (Footlocker, Eastbay, etc.). These sites run sales every few weeks, almost always including Vans. Of course, you’ll likely need to double up with another pair to reach the minimum for shipping. Alternatively, Vans itself will sometimes run sales around the big holidays. They have restricted the yacht club from sales before, but recently they’ve included them.
While the longevity of the materials is a bit disappointing, it’s important to remember price when evaluating value. Even at full retail, this is half the cost of something like a Nike Blazer or Jordan 1 low. And 25% the cost of even the cheapest American-made leather shoes.
The shoe isn’t going to wow you for materials, but it doesn’t need to. For what you get, I think this shoe is an amazing value. These might offer the best impact per dollar in my entire closet.
The Vans Old Skool Yacht Club is a shoe that stands out. It carries at least a bit of hype still, and is cheap enough that if the materials don’t hold up you can replace it without worrying if you make rent. While this colorway is certainly not for everyone, if you are they type of person who likes colorful shoes this is a no brainer.
Do you agree? Do you disagree? Let me know in the comments below