How do you improve a classic? That’s a question that Vans took seriously while considering its iconic Era silhouette, a shoe that’s been beloved by skateboarders and fans since 1976. The answer turned out to be ComfyCush, a new innovation in comfort technology that Vans launched for the Era this week after lots of consumer feedback.
The ComfyCush Era takes the legendary silhouette and adds arch support, tongue tie-downs and a new, revamped foam and rubber base, which means that customers will have a softer, more cushiony experience with the same classic styles they know and love. For Nathanial Iott, Senior Director of Footwear Design at Vans, this new innovation comes full circle with what Vans has always represented as a part of youth and skate culture for nearly six decades.
“One thing that kind of continued since I started skating is that skateboarding itself, it’s always being given to a new generation and it’s always subverting what the previous generation did and that culture itself stays fresh because you just can’t keep it the same,” he told COOLS from the high school-themed launch party for the shoe in Bushwick, where Lil Wayne ran a pep rally and Iott taught science classes about the new ComfyCush technology.
“I think that’s what kept Vans moving instead of just staying in the 1970s or the ‘80s. Skateboarding moves on. The other thing about skateboarding is that function and utility are super important. Basically, we heard from the people that had been buying shoes for years that they wanted more comfort, so we just looked into what we needed to do to make the shoes more comfortable.”
Iott also pointed out that rolling out Comfy Cush for the Era silhouette brings this spirit of constantly evolving full circle for Vans. The Era was born in 1976 after legendary pro-skateboarders Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta (the inspirations behind 2005’s Lords of Dogtown) asked the brand to create functional shoes for skateboarding. Now, at the ComfyCush launch, Alva acted as a historian, telling the origin story of the Era shoe, which is changing again thanks to the needs and desires of Vans’ creative communities.
“I think it’s the same company it’s always been,” Iott says, pointing out that the brand’s consumer base now reaches far beyond the skate world. “Ultimately, it comes down to this people-centric view of how you make stuff and what that can do for people. You can see it in the way that Steve Burns took the advice in the ‘70s of Stacy and Alva in the ‘80s. It’s always been about what the people in the community needed and it’s the same now.”