It’s Friday. The event we’ve all been waiting for is finally here. At the beginning of the week, I had asked the boss if I could get off work early so that I could go to another one of my sneaker-related events. He knows I have this weird obsession with buying sneakers, and he knows I have a lot of them. That’s about as far as I get with him, before I lose his attention to some other matter of business. I’m sure this relates to many of you with your family members, friends, and co-workers. They don’t get it, and quite honestly they could probably care less. “WE GET IT. YOU LIKE SHOES. DO YOU HAVE THOSE KANYE WEST ONES?”
Well, this sneaker-related event wasn’t just any old sneaker event. In fact, it was probably the most prolific sneaker-related event I could’ve ever attended in all the years of me being into this hobby. The reason is because… of the significance that Vans and more specifically Vans Syndicate played in my most recent years of being a sneaker collector. Vans Syndicate introduced many sneakerheads to the world of Vans, by being strategically offered at core skate shops who just so happened to be carrying those oh-so-popular Nike SB’s. Producing a few high caliber collaborations, Syndicate captured the attention of old school skaters, fashion forward individuals, and sneaker collectors, and coincidentally introduced a lot of new folks to these non-mainstream, high-end brands, artists, and skate legends of yesteryear.
I had no idea of what to expect of this event, but I just knew I needed to get there. Our fellow Vans collectors were talking about meeting up at the event to show support. These are the few opportunities where some of the SoCal guys can come hang out, introduce themselves, and finally meet in person. Yes, we’re dorks, but WE think we’re cool. One of our friends Dave (@nu_dav) from Phoenix, AZ, was kind of on the fence about making the trek to the event, and I told him that if he could get out this way, that I’d take him along with me, as my +1 to the VIP private event that started 2 hours before the opening to the public. That’s all it took for Dave to book a flight and hotel, and a week later he was on a 45 min. flight from PHX to ONT!
So, back to my story. I clock out of work, and smash out to Ontario to pick up Dave at his hotel. Then it’s a daunting 50 mile dash back over to the West side of Los Angeles. Fairfax has got to be the hardest place to get to from any freeway in Los Angeles. Especially on a Friday afternoon when everyone’s just trying to get home. We finally make it there at 4:55 PM, and we park about 2 blocks away in the local neighborhoods. We made it! We walk up to a blacked out window front, with a large Vans Syndicate “S” logo being the only visible view into the Known Gallery, one door to the right of Supreme L.A. We step inside, get checked-in, and we take it all in.
The Known Gallery looks absolutely magnificent with its new exhibit. It’s perfect. Every single Vans Syndicate was on display, from 001-030, just like all the white box retros from this year reminded you of. Mind you, I was just there the week before, and saw the most amazing and overwhelming display of sneakers, by none other than Dre, Croatianstyle himself, BUT…(and of course there’s a BUT!)… BUT what the Vans Syndicate display lacked in quantity compared to the spectacle it just had to follow, it sure as hell made up for it in quality. That sort of sums up what Vans Syndicate has always represented, am I right?
The night started off with a discussion panel featuring some of the key figures of Vans Syndicate, who talked at great lengths about the creation of Syndicate, and all of the risks that they had to take, knowing that they were creating something awesome, but were uncertain of it’s acceptance, both on the consumer side, as well as the corporate side. The panel consisted of Rian Pozzebon, Berto Liechty, Tom Cooke, Shawn Stussy, Tetsu Nishiyama, Jason Dill, and Eric Dressen, and each told their own story of what Syndicate meant to them, and how they were involved with the program. It all goes back to friends collaborating with each other, who just so happened to create arguably some of the most highly sought after Vans in the world to this day.
As you walk in, you look to the left, and you’re introduced to a wall of names from floor to ceiling. This signifies what Syndicate represents. Working with friends, to create cool shit, without any limitations. The entire retrospective is chronologically laid out, and with almost every sneaker, there were some sort of artifact that accompanied the shoes. From unused Wtaps crossbones canvas material, to ads, to never before seen photos. The display cases that took up the center of the room were filled with every single accessory that either came with each shoe, or was sold alongside that particular release. We’re talking about the ballistic nylon bag with skate tool, the Pendleton shirt, all the Syndicate snapback colorways, including the sample ones. Oh and speaking of samples, there were quite a few sample pairs on display. I won’t get into specifics, but I’ll let the pictures do the talking, and you can see if you can spot them. Some didn’t make it past the sample phase due to legal issues.
There are stories for many of the shoes, and we were fortunate to have my long-time friend Brant (Silo), who flew out to help organize this event, share a few of them with Dave and I. After a few failed past attempts to meet up with Brant when he came out to L.A., I finally was able to meet him in person, a definite highlight of the evening, but I think the most memorable thing was just having a lot of our Under The Palms / Strictly Vans homies show up and support. We all rocked our Vans, and we finally got to put faces to online personalities. I bet most of us had different visions of what some of us looked or sounded like! I just wish more members could’ve been a part of this, and this is why I wanted to choose this narrative format to write this blog post about. Those of us who deliberately choose to put our time, effort, and money into collecting Vans over other brands out there. “The ones out of step”. I wanted to take you guys through this experience with us.
As you all know, we’ve been under the impression that Vans Syndicate is ending. Well, during the event we kept being told that Vans Syndicate isn’t going away, but it’s going on hiatus so that Vans can put more resources and focus into their upcoming 50th anniversary and whatever else it has planned. Some said that perhaps this was a last minute decision since they were getting a lot of praise and good words about Syndicate, so they didn’t want to make any hastily decisions like killing off the “S”. We just wanted to officially say they aren’t going to end, and to stop the rumors now! *cue Wayne’s World alternate ending fingertip waving*
The night was filled with a lot of familiar faces, a few friends who I’ve met over the years through running OTWS/UTP, and I would never consider myself an industry person or an insider, but I sure got the special treatment, complete with the swag bags that were being given out to those industry folks, friends & family. The bag contained a special shirt made for the event that featured a column of S’s with each artist’s rendition of it. There was also a tonal black starter snapback with a felt “S” logo on it, an engraved “S” flask and pin, and the biggest surprise of the night, a pair of Chukka Pro “S” in black canvas, with silver screen printed “Syndicate” word logos printed all over the shoe, in each of the past Syndicate collaboration artist’s rendition of the word. What a nice final tribute to the first 10 years of Vans Syndicate. Simply amazing. The night ended with a bunch of us taking a big group photo. It was a small portion of the core group, but UTP/SV definitely represented.
Thank you to my man Chris at Vans, who always remembers to include me on these awesome things. I’m forever grateful. I’d also like to thank the entire Syndicate team, including Brant for looking out for the squad at the end of the night. So awesome to see you working closer with these guys now. Get this man his Silo x Syndicate collab already, damnit!
Enjoy these photos that I took with my shitty camera as well as my slightly better iPhone!