Vans Authentic vs Vans Era: An Epic Rivalry

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Vans Era vs Vans Authentic
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Last Updated on April 20, 2022

If you are like me, Vans is at the top of your favorite brands and a go-to item for your 90s inspired looks. Chances are you even have a preferred Vans style. Like the Atwood style or, err… Maybe a couple of preferred styles? 

Sometimes it’s difficult to decide between one shoe type or the other. Especially so when they appear to be so similar, like the Authentic and the Era models. We previously covered what makes Vans so special in our Vans vs Converse article, but what really makes their Authentic and Era models so different? 

A brief background on Vans

Vans is an American company with deep ties to the action sports community that manufactures footwear and other casual apparel. Their shoes are renowned in the skateboarding scene because of their simple, extremely durable, comfortable, and creative design.

Many action sports personalities have endorsed and helped design their products based on their real-life experiences, adding unmeasurable value to the brand and shaping its technical development throughout the years.

Recently, Vans has launched a special edition with a re-run of classic skateboarding models, built from the inside to perform even better on longer skate sessions.

They’re basically “all style on the outside and extra tough on the inside” according to the brand, featuring an upgraded construction with reinforced materials that makes them more durable and with better cushioning than their original counterparts. 

You May Like: 13 Gnarly Skateboard Brands from the 90s

Vans Authentic

The Vans #44 was the brand’s first model and it came to be known as the Authentic. It’s as old school as you can get with Vans styles. However, the model has been much improved upon over the years and has been used as the base for many graphic collections. You can now choose from many prints and color combinations on their website.

Some modern takes on the Authentic model feature its core characteristics while adding innovative materials or creative decorations.

A great example of this is the Anaheim Factory Authentic 44 DX that pays homage to action sports with fun graphics from Vans’ past on the toes bumper instead of the usual printed canvas.

However, the real technological revamp of the style came with the Vans Skate Classics re-run.

The complete collection honors the classic styles by looking the same (in either white or black color), but the underlays have been reinforced with DURACAP for increased durability and the traditional rubber has been replaced with their own SickStick gum rubber compound to deliver more grip.

The upper part has also been redesigned with higher sidewall heights for extra protection and to allow for the new molded heel and tongue straps that lock your feet in for more board control. 

As if that wasn’t enough, they also added a new two-part foxing tape with a deeper knurl on the toe bumpers and the POPCUSH energy return sock liners that provide both superior cushioning and protection from impact. The sole has also been modified with a deeper tread depth that makes it last longer and extends the life of your favorite pair of sneakers. 

The new Skate Authentic sturdy suede and canvas uppers give you a classic look with a tougher construction. Saying it in simple terms, all of these changes have made this collection’s models extra durable and able to withstand anything you throw at them. The iconic look is thus preserved and the performance is improved! 

Vans Authentic: The fit

In General

This type of Vans is the most comfortable of all, particularly so for summer. They are the lightest of them all, both in weight and in airiness. Their canvas feels much thinner than the Era’s! 

Since they are so light, I have found that they don’t need any breaking in. They can be used right off the box, however, I’d go with short socks if it’s the first time to avoid any burns on the heel which can sometimes happen. 

Laces are the traditional cotton ones that are soft and easy to tie up (also my favorites!). 

Around the Ankle

The unpadded edges of the collar can feel a bit sharp at first, but they should soften right after a couple of uses. 

If it’s bothering you too much, you can grab a soft towel and a hammer, wrap it up, and tap it a few times (softly! It doesn’t require much strength, only a little repetition) and this should do it. Oh, and tap it over a hard surface that won’t break, not over your fingers. Take all necessary precautions to avoid accidents. The idea is to soften the canvas so that your skin suffers less friction.

On the Sides

Vans are all pretty much the same when it comes to the fit on the sides. They sit snuggly against the sides and take the shape of the feet since they are pretty malleable and not naturally stiff. 

The Toes

The little issue with the rubber band and the toes held true for this model as well. I think it does for all the Vans I tried on so far, which are quite a few. But on the good side, there are no other pesky seams bothering me on any other parts of the shoe, which is great if you are a fan of using your sneakers sans socks!

Vans Era 

#95

Vans’ second model was the #95, famously known as the Era. It was the main contender for the Authentic for quite some time after it came out and it looks quite similar. Originally, the main difference from its predecessor was its padded collar and different color combinations.

It was originally designed by Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta and has been re-launched as part of the Vans skate Classics collection together with the Authentic, the Skate Slip-on, the Skate Old Skool and the Sk8-Hi. 

They all feature new innovative materials that guarantee a more durable shoe and technical improvements for maximized performance. They also feature a checkerboard flag on the side that brands them as part of the collection!

Era Pro BMX 66

The Era Pro BMX 66 by Dakota Roche is another take on this classic model that brings a tried and tested favorite back to the game. Featuring both DURACAP™ for reinforcement and Vans WaffleCup BMX for the ultimate pedal feel, this model offers the perfect support that BMX riders need.

Comfy Cush Era

Last, but not least, the Comfy Cush Era is a new and super comfortable revision on the Era model that guarantees extra comfort and uses the ultimate technology in cushioned soles. The collection is headlined by artist Yuri Ogita, who is a multidisciplinary artist that occasionally makes graphic art books.

The collection is all about freedom of movement and comfort, which are so necessary to her creative process. As someone who spends a lot of time on her feet, the soft sole of the new Comfy Cush Era particularly fits her lifestyle and creative necessities. 

Vans Era: The fit

In General

They are very comfortable to wear every day, all year round, in big part thanks to their cushioned soles and padded insoles. 

This particular model doesn’t take too long to be broken in, however, it does require some breaking in. They are made of thick canvas so they can feel a bit rigid at first, particularly around the padded collar. They are also a bit heavier than other Vans models, so if you are not used to them, it might take some getting used to.

Laces are a bit shorter than usual and made from nylon instead of the usual cotton on some particular models (not sure why!). You can easily adjust the tightness of the hold of the upper canvas with the laces according to whether you are wearing socks or not (or if you have bloated feet in summer) which also favors general fit and a relaxed overall feel.

Around the Ankle

The padded collar provides extra cushioning on the ankle. This makes it less likely that you will get a burn on the heel or suffer any sort of discomfort over the little protruding bones on the sides, which can be an issue if you have skinny ankles. I mention this because I’ve had trouble with some shoes that end right below the little inside bone and have resulted in considerable bruising there or some nasty burns and blisters. 

On the Sides

Vans era are not particularly wide, not even the wide models, which tend to be quite tight on the sides of the feet. They are perfect for people with thin feet that have problems with shoes slipping off, because they sit snuggly against the natural slope of the foot. 

The Toes

The rubber sole band that joins the canvas and the rubber sole outsole can sometimes feel like it sits right on top of your big toe’s nail, generating a little friction there whenever you walk and push in on the border of the nail. Usually, this is not something that bothers many people (and you can barely feel it with socks on), but it can be bothersome for people that prefer to wear seamless socks or if you have a hurt toe (which was my case and how I found out this particular detail!).

So, which is the best?

It is a very tough call to declare a winner between the Vans Authentic and the Vans Era.

Particularly if we compare the two new Skate Classic’s redesign models. They are both made of top-notch materials and share some amazing technological improvements.

The Era has some pretty amazing graphic prints available, which made it super hard to choose!

However, I have to say I would go for the Authentic if I absolutely had to choose one.  My main reason for going for the Authentic is that I don’t like the padded collar feel on my ankle with The Era. I would rather have less support there and less friction because comfort is paramount for me.

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Lorena Lombardo is a fashion designer specialized in trend forecasting and fashion journalism. She studied at the UAL (University of London), ORT (Universidad ORT Uruguay), and taken various courses about traditional craftsmanship while living in Tokyo. Some of her favorite memories during the 90s include wearing bucket hats and trying to copy Rachel’s hairstyle. Her absolute favorite show was Buffy: the Vampire Slayer but she was also a huge fan of Clueless because of its amazing fashion choices. Her top track of the decade is currently disputed between How soon is Now? by the Smiths and Here with me by Dido. Both also happen to be the opening songs for two great 90s shows: Charmed and Roswell. Coincidence? I think not!