Calling All Millennials: This Throwback Sneaker Is Going to Replace the Samba Craze

Millennials, it’s time to dust ‘em off

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Millennials who grew up on MTV music videos, sketchy LimeWire tracks downloaded on iPods and an Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8r Boi” ringtone for their Razr flip phone likely had a pair of Vans—specifically, the Classic Slip-Ons in checkerboard, which retail for $60. The cool, edgy and comfortable sneaker has remained a classic since its inception in 1977 (hence, the name), but hit a peak in the early aughts, especially with consumers in Southern California and skateboarders.

Fast forward the VCR a solid 20 years to 2024—except now those VHS tapes evolved into TikTok videos—and you might find yourself hit with a wave of déjà vu like I did the other day. Knowing full well that fashion is cyclical and the trends of today emulate the ghosts of our past—take, for example, the return of Carrie Bradshaw-approved Y2K rosettes, low-rise jeans, baggy jorts, heart jewelry and the beloved ‘going out top’—I should have seen it coming. Yet nothing prepared me for the black and white sneakers of my childhood suddenly deemed back in style by social media content creator Cat Ward, whose ‘This Not That’ video racked up nearly 200,000 views. Overcome with a wave of nostalgia and excitement, I was left to wonder: Could the Vans checkboard classic slip-ons of yesteryear replace the ongoing Adidas Samba craze?

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It appears so. In fact, these lace-less shoes began to trend on TikTok after Morgan Stewart McGraw filmed an OOTD video for Instagram in March, donning the checkered slip-ons with trousers and a tailored button-down. Last summer, Emily Ratajkowski sported the throwback footwear on the streets of New York City. As the hard-to-get Adidas Sambas reach their peak, it’s not lost on this writer that other sporty kicks are vying for that number one spot, such as the Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66, Puma Palermo and Nike V2K. As Gen Z is starting to adopt the ‘retro music’ of millennials’ past, from No Doubt to Sum 41 to Alanis Morissette, their approval of the checkboard classic Vans is nothing short of ironic.

Vans Classic Slip-On Shoe Trend How to Wear the Classic Slip-on Vans
Getty Images / Edward Berthelot

How to Wear the Classic Slip-on Vans

If you decide to give Vans another go, embrace the boldness of the black and white checkered canvas. Styling the durable shoes is not as daunting as it may appear. If you’re anything like me, then you love a good denim outfit. Good news: Checkerboard Vans look unbelievably cool with both dark and light jeans, as pictured above. Pairing them with capsule wardrobe pieces is a steady way to dip your toes into the trend, but don’t be afraid to incorporate pops of colors and patterns with a handbag or a T-shirt as this will make the shoe’s print pop rather than compete with it or clash.

Stewart presented a way of wearing the skater shoes that didn’t feel like she was reverting to the aughts—with tailored slacks and a button-down blouse for a grungy twist on a classic ensemble that you can sport in the office. I also wouldn’t mind leaning into its rebellious nature with a pair of cargo pants and a slinky tank top on the weekends or for a coffee run. It’s a good sneaker to wear with a dress, too, whether it’s an easy-breezy sundress or a sweater dress.

As someone who has tirelessly tried Gazelle after Gazelle and a Spezial here and there to no avail (because the Sambas are always sold out), returning to my emo roots feels oddly refreshing. TikTok creator Leah deemed it “one of the shoes of 2024,” and it’s safe to assume most millennials might have a similar response to TikToker Maer about “getting ahead of the trend” or, as she suggests, dusting the staple shoes off and out of your closet. Regardless, this is one fashion throwback that I’m actually looking forward to.

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Associate Fashion Commerce Editor

Stephanie is a natural savant in the fashion, beauty, and dating & relationships beats. She graduated with a bachelor of arts at the University of San Diego, where she majored...

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