Vans is known as an iconoclast of mid-2000s and 2010s streetwear, a brand beloved by skaters, stoners and rebels of all kinds. While Nike-loving sneakerheads go to great lengths to keep their Jordans looking pristine, Vans customers would happily use highlighter-colored duct tape on perfectly fine Vans or scribble over the rubber sole with whatever marker they had in their pencil pouch that day. In keeping with this DIY spirit, Vans has developed its own customization operation, aptly named Vans Customs.
For Black History Month 2021, Vans has collaborated with four up-and-coming Black artists to create custom Vans sneakers utilizing each artist’s aesthetic. What could be more a fitting way for Vans to show its solidarity with Black art communities and the people who flourish within them? Head to Vans Customs and you can design your own custom high- or low-top sneakers based on the work of artists Rewina Beshue, Chris Martin, Sydney James and Tony Whlgn.
We recommend using a Vans Slip-On sneaker, as it creates a spacious canvas for the artwork. There are also pre-designed sneakers available featuring the artists’ work.
In addition to working with these artists, Vans also plans on donating $40,000 to the Black Art Futures Fund, as well as an additional $25,000 raised by the Vans Family members who donated their points from the brand’s loyalty program. The Black Art Futures Fund focuses on amplifying and strengthening the future and impact of Black art. The donation will help fund grants to small community-based Black arts organizations around the country.
If you’re looking for a cause to support before Black History Month ends, design a pair of sneakers inspired by these artist collaborations. More information on the Vans Black History Month artists and photos of their artwork can be found below.
Rewina Beshue is a contemporary artist based in San Francisco. Her contribution was a striped, black-and-white pattern that is hypnotic and mind-bending.
Chris Martin is a multidisciplinary artist based in North Carolina who aims to amplify Southern history. He contributed a graphic that features a swallow breaking through a chain.
Sydney G. James
Sydney G James is a Detroit-based fine artist and muralist who creates art that explores themes such as race and gender. Her design features a Black woman with curly hair unzipping a jacket with greenery resembling the continent of Africa printed all over the jacket.
Finally, artist Tony Whlgn was the last to be featured during the series. Also Detroit-based, he contributes a line-drawing depicting a smiling face and flowers, pictured here on an all-black Vans slip-on sneaker.