I haven’t wanted to step foot in a High School since I matriculated, unless it was to skate or vandalise. So when I was invited to the ComfyCush High School event in Brooklyn, old anxieties returned and flashbacks of confinement, boredom and not knowing the answer started to visit me in the night.
WORDS: ADRIAN DAY
PHOTOGRAPHY: SUPPLIED BY VANS
Luckily for me, ComfyCush High was one of the coolest events I’ve been to. A High School set up, complete with classes [Science and History], home room, a school band, gym lockers, bell ringing, and intercom announcements. I thought I saw Ferris Bueller, but he was off sick.
The purpose of the event was to showcase Vans’ latest endeavour, the launch of their new comfort-driven ComfyCush technology, which takes the new comfort to Classic silhouettes. A purely consumer based request, Vans listened. So after science class I stayed behind like a nerd and spoke to Nate Lott [Head Footwear Designer] about what’s gone in to the new ComfyCush range.
AD – Was it a kind of natural progression, like an ongoing story from the Ultracush to the UltraRange, and then you guys came up with the ComfyCush? Or is this its own beast?
NL – No, I mean everything we’ve done recently is kind of something that gives us, you know, learnings to kind of take from it, so we’ve, over the last couple years, kind of, realized and come to terms with, like, we need to offer people comfort, right, so most of the stuff we learn is from, like, making skate shoes. Right, so if you can make a skate shoe that can cushion somebody coming down a big set of stairs, where your body weight’s multiplied by, you know, 100 times, you can make something that’s more comfortable.
So, a lot of the learnings that we had developing Ultracush for skateboarding, into finding out from, like, us asking our consumers, like, what do you guys want from us? Which is basically, like, we want you guys to make more comfortable shoes. Right, and get right back to what you learned from skateboarding, and making shoes for skateboarders. And, yeah. I mean, it’s like, you know, we wanna make these shoes have the same traits that we’d like from classics, where you dig them more as you beat them up, and you like them as they get abused, and you kinda … they’re not really cool until you’ve, like, destroyed them. I wanted to keep that, while taking these insights on how to make them comfortable. And that’s basically, like … those are lessons we learned from skateboarding.
And so, you’re rooted in skateboarding?
Yeah. Personally, and then we look at skateboarding as the way that we kinda look at how to learn to make new shoes.
So, this is something I wanted to ask, but you actually answered it class, but, adapting to the ComfyCush, how did you have to manipulate the last [inside shape of shoe]? You have to make a lot of changes to the last to work with that sole?
Yeah, so the challenge is, to make the shoe comfortable, you usually have to sacrifice how the shoe looks. The shoe looks chunkier, higher off the ground. It loses a lot of that sleek shape, so there’s kind of a lot of tricks on how to make the last a little bit more dynamic, so it gives you a little bit more support and comfort. And then there are some tricks on how to raise the height of the outsole, to hide some of that new height. And, one of the things we did is, we dropped that rubber bottom. We dropped it lower than the foam, because, when it’s on the shelf, you don’t see the rubber, ‘cause it’s kinda inset, and that gives you another couple millimetres of foam on your foot, and that makes a difference. Every tiny little bit of comfort you can get into it makes it feel better.
And that was, kind of, you know, what we learned is, like, take every last opportunity you have to make them comfortable, make them the type of thing that gets more comfortable as you break them in, as you’re wearing them, and hopefully people like the same things about these that they like about classics, like better with age.
Was it an enjoyable project to figure out? I mean, okay, so let’s do this; what shoes have you designed that we know about, like …
Wow, I’ve been at Vans for, like, 18 years …
So, I’ve done a ton of shoes over the years, and honestly, a lot of the stuff I do right now is, I’ll design the engineering behind what is coming out, and I won’t design how it looks. I’ll just work out, like, here’s the height on side of the shoe, here’s how we engineer the shoe. Yeah,I do a little bit more of that. I’ve done a ton of different classic builds over the years, like, over the years I’ve done Vault builds, where we rebuilt, like, the OG ’92 Old Skool, for Ray Barbee in Vault, and it was a rad process, ‘cause you just, you dig in and you’re like, what makes it look vintage, right? I mean, like, these vintage old Vans, like, what is it about it? And those are things we apply in, like, the way we do Vault OG’s now. So this process was, like, you know, I … it’s part of the way I, kind of, love the way Vans look, is I want it to look the way it looked when I was a kid.