Dust Off Your ’80s Vans: Checkerboard Is Back in Style

SEARCH THE WORD “checkerboard” on Vans’s web shop and 465 different shoes spool forth. The California footwear empire is synonymous with the pattern since the 1970s, when Steve Van Doren, son of Vans founder Paul Van Doren, noticed that children were coloring their slip-ons in checkerboard patterns. Hundreds of two-tone shoes aren’t shocking—it’s what you expect from Vans. That the brand offers such an abundance of checkered styles speaks to its signature motif’s enduring appeal among skater types and suburban moms alike.

What’s become notable, however, is the way checkerboard styles that extend well beyond Vans have been swarming department stores and high-fashionIn the last few years, runway shows have been held. Recent collections include bags and suits featuring surrealist green and white checkerboards.

Louis Vuitton’s

menswear line. ASOS sells a variety of affordable checkerboard hair accessories, including skirts, cardigans, and skirts. Wray and Zankov are New York-based startups that specialize in matching primary-colored checkederboard shirt sets and intricately deco-ish checkerboard sweatshirts.

The pattern very clearly tells the world ‘This is who I am. I like to have fun. I don’t take myself too seriously.’

According to Edited, a company that tracks market data from retailers’ e-commerce sites, the number of checkerboard products jumped 130% between October 2020 and October 2021. Checkerboard “gone viral,” said Avery Faigen, a fashionEdited retail analyst who compiled the data. The trend has been omnipresent on social media sites like Instagram, TikTok and other key sources for style inspiration for Gen Z or millennials. TikTok videos featuring the hashtag #checkerboardoutfit received nearly 789,000 views collectively.

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Some believe Covid-era nostalgia is behind this unsettling surge. “With the pandemic last year, we were all looking for better times, looking back to better days,” said Ms. Faigen. One’s throwback checkerboard touchstone depends on one’s age. If you’re a Boomer, you might associate the pattern with ska, a jittery musical movement that originated around the late 1950s in Jamaica. During its second wave in the late ’70sCheckerboard clothing was popular among musicians and fans. If you were an ’80s teen, you’ll tie it to Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn), the blitzed-out heart of 1982s “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,”An iconic wearer of checkerboard Vans.

Checkerboard can be read as surrealist. Check out the swirling work M.C. Escher. Or it could seem preppy to collectors of MacKenzie-Childs’s kitschy checkboard enamel home goods. For Connor McKnight, a rising fashion designer in New York, the motif evokes car-racing’s checkered flag. McKnight envisioned designing sleek sports cars when he was a child. His career goals changed and he now wears a necktie with a shirt collar in an energetic black-and white checkerboard motif. The pattern is stylish. “adds an extra dimension to a piece of clothing,”McKnight prefers solid colors, however.

This pattern is what Tara Leavitt (33), a Jersey City marketing director, N.J., refers to as the “The Pattern.” “avant basic”Look. Many of her generation are more adventurous and experimental in style, despite being freed from strict office dress codes. For her, simple silhouettes such as trousers and button-up shirts are the best. “basic”) in sharp checkered patterns (the “avant”It is a simple way for you to dress more playful. She stated that her checkerboard Wray pantset is a clear statement to the world. “This is who I am. I like to have fun. I don’t take myself too seriously.”After a hard, pandemic season, it’s a good thing to have sartorial frivolity.

Josiah Dayoub is a West Hollywood, Calif. perfumer. He often pairs the orange-and cream checkerboard trousers he just bought from with his other purchases.

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Urban Outfitters

With an uncomplicated gray sweater, and black loafers. He called it Checkerboard. “is something that’s still simple”But that’s not impossible “personalize”It will depend on how you wear them.

Still, it doesn’t satisfy everyone’s definition of simplicity. He wore the pants to dinner recently with his aunt and uncle. Their reaction? “Holy moly, those are crazy.”However, Mr. Dayoub is not the only one. “I don’t really feel that way,”He said. “Checkerboard feels like a staple piece to my wardrobe.”

The Wall Street Journal is not compensated for retailers listed in its articles that sell products. Not all retailers are listed.

Write to Jacob Gallagher at [email protected]

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