Vans Caballero – The Lux Treatment

Vans has had a bit of a hazy past. Having many different shoe models, some of their most memorable being made in the 80s. One of  those shoes being Vans breakdancing shoes, aka Vans Breakers. However there was another shoe, which ultimately didn’t gain fame in the 80s, but rather the early 90s. The Vans Half Cab was released back in 1992, and has easily become a Vans signature shoe. However what many don’t know is that the Half Cab’s origin actually began in the late 80s. With a shoe that has, for the most part been forgotten, the shoe in question being the Caballero (Full Cab or Style #39). Released in 1989, the shoe was Steve Caballero’s first signature shoe. It was a high top and had various references to Steve’s Asian background, particularly the croc embossed collar and sidepanels. More importantly the logo used was a dragon instead of the famous Mofo inspired logo on the Half Cab. The Caballero proved to be unpopular as the collar seemed too constrictive for skater’s movements.

A few years went by, after which time a trend of cutting down the Caballero into a midtop sneaker began to happen. Some skaters would then tape, apply stickers, or even sew the cut portion of the collars. Seeing this inspired Steve Caballero to do the same, after which he decided to propose a mid top version of the Caballero. The result was the loss of the croc panels, and the dragon logo which led to the birth of the colorful Half Cab in 1992. Ever since then the Caballero has remained dormant, the slumbering dragon seemingly doomed to never awaken again.

As 2008 rolled around the Great Recession was looming not to far off, but it was also the year that Vans decided to resurrect the Caballero to preemptively kick off its 20th anniversary. Unlike the Half Cab’s 20th anniversary releases, which saw only two major releases, namely by Supreme and HKIT. The Caballero was given four unique releases in Vans various divisions, having a Vault, California, Pro, and a General release. Arguably the best releases were the Vault and Pro release. Both releases were the epitome of premium footwear.

In particular the Caballero LX  is a prime example of pre-recession luxury shoes. Dropped in three colorways: black, tawny port, and  blk/charcoal. The black/charcoal model has a charcoal upper made of thick generous cuts of nubuck. While having black full grain leather panels and a collar. A peculiar fact about the Vault release is the padding on the tongue. Unlike the Pro version, the padding on LX caballero is 2x thicker. Instead of having the standard nylon laces, cotton laces are present. Another pair of, red,  laces are also included. The original style liner is forgone in favor of a modern nylon liner. White eyelets provide some needed contrast. The retro Vans label is on the heel adding a sense of unity. A removable footbed, with an all Caballero print, gives the shoe a more lux laid back feeling. Finally theres the red Caballero dragon logo. At first glance it looks like the og logo from 1989, however some of the branding has been removed, perhaps to better pay tribute to Steve’s original logo design. It would be almost impossible to find a shoe like this today. Due to the recession many shoe companies, and to a certain degree Vans included, have lower the quality of their shoes in order to keep profits in the green. Shoes post 2008 tend to use cheaper leathers and rubbers. Sadly the Caballero’s release in 2008-09 was strictly a limited engagement. Finding a pair, is difficult, if you stumble across a pair don’t hesitate to grab it. An irony of the Caballero LX is in the fact its a rare and very premium sneaker, but they usually don’t sell over their MSRP of $80. Perhaps due to the fact that many people are not familiar with the silhouette, despite this the Caballero LX could be worth twice its MSRP. If its deadstock, has the og box, and comes with both the laces. As big and bulk as it may appear, the Vans Caballero doesn’t feel very constricting, instead its fairly easy on the feet. Furthermore the color scheme makes it applicable to wear for various occasions. People who are looking for some true high quality shoes, lovers of the Vans Half Cab, or even people who appreciate classic skating design may be interesting in grabbing a pair for themselves.

Charcoal nubuck upper, with black full grain leather color blocking.

Red Caballero logo. White eyelets. Thick pieces of leather make up the Caballero LX’s anatomy.

Vans retro label.

Cotton laces. Red liner. The thickest piece of nubuck was used for the toe of the shoe.

Removable Caballero printed insoles.

*Rubbers by IFC. Very hard to find. Pre-recession premium shoe.

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