I was in fourth grade in 1982, the year “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” came out and while I probably didn’t understand much about the movie, I knew that Spicoli’s black and white checkerboard slip-on Vans were super cool and that I wanted a pair for Christmas, which I got and wore to shreds around Lakeridge Elementary on Mercer Island where I grew up. Those shoes, and an obsession with Swatch, Esprit and French-cut Guess jeans defined my early fashion sense. Not much has changed.
Vans is obviously still going strong, and in 2010 launched Custom Culture, a great project aimed at inspiring high school students (still their perfect demo, no?) and raising much-needed funding for arts programs. From now until February 11, high school art students are encouraged to trick out their traditional Vans shoes, by painting, airbrushing, bedazzling—whatever—in a style representing the Vans lifestyle, think action sports, art, music and their own “local flavor” of regional culture. After an internal Vans team narrows down the competition, the public gets to vote for their choice and the top five schools head to New York City to showcase their designs. The winning school gets $50,000 for their art program and the shoes go on sale in Vans and Journeys stores across the country. Last year’s winner was Rio Rancho High School just north of Albuquerque, and their shoes will be available for sale in March.
How cool would it be if a Washington state high school won this year? Teachers, register here and spread the word! Let’s show ‘em what we’re made of up here in the mighty Pacific Northwest!