Style //

Style. Simplicity. Sneakers.

Converse, Vans, Toms, and the Longevity of the American Sneaker

Michelle Griesmanby Michelle Griesman

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Image Courtesy of Zombieite.

Converse, Vans, Toms. Household names, right? They are. If you don’t know them, prepare to crawl out from the rock you’ve been living under for the past decade. These brands’ lines now run the gamut of products, from clothing to sunglasses and hats. But the core of their vision started with our feet.

Each of these iconic American brands entered the market with sneakers, and a single model became their staple shoe. These particular sneakers come in just about any color you can imagine, (or as the case with Cons, design your own), are available at hundreds of retailers and yet somehow don’t seem played out. And it’s completely acceptable and common to own multiple pairs of one style.

So what are the shoes you can buy ever year, in a different color, from a different retailer, and it never gets old? The Converse Chuck Taylor, the Vans Authentic and the Classic by Toms.

The Converse Chuck Taylor

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Image Courtesy of Steven Guzzardi.

Originally designed for playing basketball (let’s see a comparison of this shoe against, say, any basketball player’s pro model – about zero similarities remain), this sneaker has moved off the courts and into daily life. It’s versatile, stylish – can be dressed up or down (“Oh my god that’s so cute, a wedding party wearing Chuck Taylors!”, said no dude ever) and for $55 you can wear them to a muddy music festival, wash again and again, nearly destroy, wear a few more times, then call it a day and buy a new pair.

Chucks are suitable for every occasion, except maybe wearing them to the gym. While a strong contingent of serious lifters actually do prefer them, if you’re not doing bar squats or dead lifts, you may in fact look like a jackass. Don’t think so? 

The Vans Authentic

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Image Courtesy of Nick Sotis.

I’m pretty sure there is an unofficial rule in California legislation that upon moving to the Sunshine State, you must immediately buy, and wear at all times, Vans Authentics. While the saturation of folks wearing the simple sneaker is absolutely most dense in CA, its popularity spans the world.

What the Vans Authentics also span are the definitive lines of social interests. The sneakers have an officially licensed version for just about everyone. Cat lover? Cool, they did Vans x ASPCA. Dig Star Wars? Got it. Here’s Yoda + Hawaiian Flowers x Vans. Really into Campbell’s Soup? Vans has you. (Well, Vans and Supreme.)

Classics by Toms

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Image Courtesy of Micah Ogle.

Toms makes this short list not only due to reach, but also for its exceptionally fast market penetration. While Converse has been around nearly 100 years, and Vans was founded in the ‘60s, Toms launched relatively recently in 2006.

With a business model that puts charity at the forefront (buy a pair, and they’ll give a pair to a kid in need), according to Toms, they have donated over 35 million pairs of shoes. Doing some quick math, if they gave those pairs away because 35 million shoes were sold, at a minimum $50 a pop, Toms is a very charitable, very $uccessful retail venture.


What is certain about these three American sneaker companies is that they share some key similarities – simplicity, longevity, style, profitability, and fans. Creating products that have resulted in cult-like followings, these brand mavericks will continue to complete our looks for decades to come.