Mine were orange and red. I saved up £25 in 1978 and sent off for them to Surrey Skateboards *.The smell of the new rubber soles has never quite left my nostrils. The vivid clashing colours spoke to me of the Southern Californian skate and beach culture that was glimpsed at through hard to obtain magazines. Empty swimming pools found in luxuriant gardens belonging to millionaires , tanned feet, marijuana, an endless summer, svelte unobtainable girls and freedom . All of this and much more somehow smuggled into soggy Cornwall in the guise of ‘Off the Wall’ shoes’. Concious that I was unlikely to be able to afford another £25 within the next ten years or so I cherished this exotic finery. They were worn only when I skated or needed to look unassailably cool.
”Mummy, look at that boy, he’s got dungarees like mine and granddad’s peaked cap and horrid coloured tennis shoes.”
The pride I felt as I looked into the eyes of the exasperated mother hurriedly leading her undiplomatic but undeniably perceptive child away. She looked back from a safe distance. The mixture of curiosity and disapproval stays with me to this day.It was easy to shock the good folk of my Cornish home town in those days.
Whilst the benefit of hindsight sides much of the truth of the situation with the young child’s observations one thing is for sure. These shoes set me apart. It was only skaters and young surfers who knew of the secret power of Vans.Only skaters wore them.
Today I purchased on-line a pair of Vans for my daughter .I think they are merely a pair of brightly coloured shoes to her. They are common place amongst her friends and for that matter the parents of her friends too. I think she felt something akin to the way I did when she was allowed to start wearing her ‘pointe’ ballet shoes. A right of passage.
The strange thing is Vans Off the Wall shoes gave me blisters and cuts. But hey, no one else knew.
* Still going today but bizzarely operating in North Devon.