Goodyear’s Vulcan Vars: The Little Sneaker that Could
Larger publications and sneaker influencers worldwide consistently receive gifted pairs from brands like Nike, New Balance, Adidas, Asics, and other big names. With an influx of the newest and hottest releases, it’s easy for the people gifted sneakers to overlook those not hyped by the coolest collaborators or the largest marketing expense budgets. Epsilon and its staff doesn’t get the opportunity to review gifted sneakers, ever, so when a pair came across the table I jumped at the chance to check them out. Little did I know this pair wasn’t from one of my go-to brands like Asics or New Balance, but from Goodyear (yes that Goodyear).
At the start of seventh-grade I sheepishly walked to the bus-stop. A short two-block walk for me which required no more than five minutes time, but for me felt like hours. The youngest son of a single-mother surviving on part-time housekeeping jobs and social-security checks, I didn’t get more than one pair of sneakers a year. The pair I wore for the first day of seventh grade was a badly worn pair of Reeboks from the March prior. These sneakers had been through everything; basketball games, hours long games of house (not the house you’re thinking of), kickball, and countless trollops in the woods. By the start of the school year rips and holes had emerged across the shoes toecap and heels, the outsole and midsole had irrecoverable wear, and the shoes original black and blue colorway was now a faded grey and dull violet. I stood behind curbs, tucked my feet under my chair, and bolted awkwardly from class to class. I was embarrassed immensely by my tattered feet coverings. I stared at my fellow students in their latest Nike, Jordan, or Fila (Fila was a thing back then) silhouettes. It was humiliating. I longed for new sneakers. Clean sneakers. Whole sneakers. Any sneaker that was unworn and not destroyed (I’m aware this childhood trauma is probably the reason for my current footwear infatuation). My standards in these weeks were infinitely lower than what they are today.
Two weeks ago, as I opened the box from Goodyear, that seventh-grade David was gone. In his place was a man defined by twenty-plus years of sensationalized marketing, hours of social media and internet browsing, and compromised by more monthly disposable income than the average seventh-grader in the early to mid-1990’s saw in a year. I pulled the sneakers out, jaded by a contemporary sneakerhead, elitist attitude. They sat unacknowledged and neglected for multiple days.
Journey Back from Darkness
Reluctantly, I began doing research on the shoes a few days ago. The sneakers arrived with no fact sheet so I was left to scour the internet for factoids and tidbits regarding the origins of the sneakers. Interestingly enough, I discovered an article from Sole Collector entitled Bad Sneakers You Never Knew Existed: Goodyear Footwear. What I was hoping for was some insight into what Goodyear sneakers brought to the table, but I was sadly disappointed. All the article offered was sharp retorts and cynical jabs at the upstart division of Goodyear. Frustratingly, I self-pondered if that was what I had become. Had sneaker culture cultivated me into this gentrified, brand-snob unable to appreciate a sneaker because it wasn’t adorning the foot of some Instagram celebutant? No. screw that. I refused to be that guy. For this I would need the eyes of my seventh-grade self.
Goodyear is no stranger to footwear. Before Continental began their lucrative partnership with Adidas in 2007, Goodyear and Adidas had a longstanding relationship in the footwear department. Goodyear supplied rubber for Adidas outsoles. In turn, Adidas created race oriented sneakers with rounded heels and thin top soles for improved driver pedal feel. Despite this collaborative relationship, Goodyear exited to create their own sneaker shop in 2014.
Of their first offerings I was given the opportunity to review the Vulcan Var Canvas. The Vulcan Var Canvas is a clear homage to vulcanization, a process created by Goodyear founder, Charles Goodyear, in the mid-1800’s. Unbeknownst to me, vulcanization was a process that essentially changed the face of the world and was arguably the most innovative creation of the 19th century. The process allowed rubber to withstand variations in temperature and humidity. Modern uses for vulcanized rubber range from bouncing balls to automotive tires.
The Vulcan Var Canvas is a rather interesting take on sneakers in the vane of the Converse Chuck Taylor. Soft cotton canvas drapes the upper of the shoe. Simple, supple, and thick beige laces flow through the metal eyestays. The sneakers offer creative detailing throughout such as a translucent outsole that reveals the signature “Goodyear” emblazoned the length of each shoe. The rubber midsole and heel offer tire print accoutrements that would be appreciated more if they were praised or designed by Kanye West or Travis Scott. On foot they were surprisingly comfortable. The insole provided an astonishingly cushioned feel. After wearing them for a day I didn’t experience any foot fatigue. For the eye-popping retail price of $59.99 (or resale of $49.99) I was extremely impressed with the Vulcan Var Canvas.
The Checkered Flag
In a world of marketing campaigns and the endless pursuit of the next “hype” sneaker, it can be hard to appreciate a quality sneaker not flooding your timeline on the gram or twitter. However, taking a step back into the demolished shoes of my seventh-grade self helped me gain a greater perspective and deeper appreciation for the simple details we can overlook in our current commercialized world. For a while Goodyear’s sneaker helped transport me back to a time when I was excited about a new pair of shoes; not the most expensive, the coolest, or the rarest, but something new, clean, and hole-free. A time when my sneaker appreciation was simplistic and didn’t require the frill of extra laces or special boxing. While the Vulcan Var Canvas probably won’t make it to my regular rotation, I’d like to think that the knowledge of such simplicity and thoughtful creations existence at a reasonable price, without an agonizing pursuit through a raffle system will help me remain grounded when I miss out on the next Nike X Off-White collaboration.