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Henry Davies, the biggest vintage Vans collector in the world

We met the founder of The Other Side of the Pillow during the Vans 'Meet The Waffleheads' event in Paris

Henry Davies, the biggest vintage Vans collector in the world We met the founder of The Other Side of the Pillow during the Vans 'Meet The Waffleheads' event in Paris

The sneaker culture is now one of the leading phenomenons not only in the industry of fashion but in the whole society. What started out as a simple hobby soon turned into a real passion, almost an obsession to be fair, a kind of collectionism that has revolutionized the very sneaker production and selling system. 

One of the personalities that fully represent this phenomenon, despite some unique characteristics, is the one of Henry Davies, founder of The Other Side of the Pillow, an online and physical store based in London that gathers Vans sneakers manufactured exclusively in the USA before 1995. In a space that can be described as a kind of Vans museum, the sneaker culture meets vintage, giving life to an unprecedented reality. Henry is now one of the protagonists of Vans Waffleheadsthe latest project of the Californian brand which takes us to the discovery of the close and deep bond that the Van Doren company shares with its community of enthusiasts, creatives and artists. Vans Waffleheads pays tribute to stories that convey Vans’ rich history of creativity highlighting individuals whose collections and creative philosophies have authentically defined Vans as a literal canvas to their expression. 

A few days ago nss magazine flew to Paris to take part in the special event hosted by Vans, Meet The Waffleheads, that offered a unique look to the latest and most interesting projects of the brand. Great attention was paid to the Vault label, the Vans collection made with premium materials, with silhouettes often reinterpreted by well-known artists and designers. The real Waffleheads were there, the great Vans collectors, along with the Patta crew, which made the crowd dance with a unique DJ set. For the occasion, Vans has designed an exclusive jacket that could be customized with sewing and decorations made live by the Vans customizers. 

We had the chance to catch up with Henry Davies, asking him about how he managed to turn his collection into one of the largest in the world. Here's what he told us. 


#1 Do you remember the first pair of Vans you’ve ever had? 

Yes, the first pair was a black and white checkered slip-on. It wasn’t that long ago, it was maybe 2000 or 2001. The interesting thing was maybe the second pair, it was a black and white checkered slip-on but it was made in the USA. It was a vintage pair. So I looked at the two and I kept the USA pair and I sold the other one. And that’s it. 


#2 How and when did your passion turn into a real job? 

So it was about 2000 and I opened my store in 2009, so I’ve been collecting for about 9 years and maybe five years in I had the idea of trying to make a living out of it. So I guess it took about five years after I had the idea, and now the business is ten years old. 


#3 The Other Side of the Pillow handles exclusively Vans silhouettes manufactured in the USA before 1995. What’s the difference with all the other models? 

The main difference is the rubber. It’s the integrity of the rubber, the density of the rubber, the rubber compound used, the chemical compound was very different. So it created a much more durable and much more comfortable and better quality shoe. So that is the first thing. Also, the shape of the shoe is another important thing for me, it has a more pointed toe, it’s a more narrow silhouette, narrow shape. And lastly, the materials are different. So these are the things that set them apart. 


#4 What is one model that was the hardest to find and to get? 

Any of the cool skateboarding models of the ’80s are really hard because it’s not that there weren't that many ones produced, it’s just the fact that they were skated and they were destroyed. So that makes them very hard to find now because people were them into the ground. So many of the old SK8-HI form the ‘80s are now very hard to find. 


#5 Is there a particular Vans silhouette you’d love to get your hands on? 

There’s a skydiving Vans shoe which I need. What else? There’s breakdancing, there were two breakdancing shoes, one that I still need. So there are still some obscure models that I don’t have. 


#6 How many Vans sneakers do you have in your personal collection? 

In my personal collection that I wear it’s only maybe 50 or 60 pairs, which isn’t that many. It’s hard to find the right size or remember every shoe that is twenty years old. But in the whole collection, in the archive, maybe it will be a 1000 pairs. 

#7 Do you actually wear the sneakers you own or do you just keep them in a display case? 

Always wear them. If they fit me I wear them. This is the beauty of these old shoes, they’re not to appreciate, the appreciation comes from the experience of wearing them. 


#8 How has the sneaker world changed and evolved since you first started your collection? 

It’s changed dramatically. I remember when I started it wasn’t a big deal, there were collectors but it wasn’t mainstream. Maybe about in the 2000s, it became a popular thing and everyone was a sneakerhead. All the limited releases came out, limited editions, and I think it kinda killed the scene for me because everyone was into it. So it changed a lot. 


#9 What has always differentiated Vans from all the other sneaker brands is its relationship with a community of loyal fans and the close bond with the skateboarding world. Does Vans still live up to these values? 

I think what differentiates Vans from all the other sneaker brands is the relationship with culture. Maybe not with the fans, but with cultural links, with skateboarding, BMX, art, fashion, punk rock, it’s these links. Other brands might have links with sports or with fashion, but it doesn’t have the same depth. And I think Vans has substance, has depth, has authenticity. I think it still lives up to those values, still has cultural links, still sets them apart from every other brand.