Recreate $60 J.Crew Vans for just $32

Recreate $60 J.Crew Vans for just $32
A simple style hack to get a designer look for half the price.
Recreate $60 J.Crew Vans for Just $32

Canvas sneakers are an absolute summer essential. White, beige, navy – but my favorite, gray, pair with every color of shorts, and look equally sharp with slim chinos or denim.

J.Crew regularly does collaborations with brands to create J.Crew exclusives. Playing off of the long traditions of brands like Barbour, Alden, and Chippewa, J.Crew's reworked versions have all the best parts of the originals, with updated design elements for a more modern fit and style.

We've been praising the canvas sneaker for as long as Primer has been around. I had picked up a pair of beige Pro Keds at Gap 6 years ago, and showed the dramatic style difference of just swapping in leather laces for the the athletic ones.

Those have still been treating me well, a simple clean up at the beginning of each summer gets them ready for action.

But I had been eying the gray Vans for J.Crew since the moment I saw them. They're certainly not expensive, only $60, but since I already have a couple summer shoe options like my beige ones and my absolute fav's Adidas Stan Smiths, it didn't make sense to drop that much.

So instead, I went searching for a frugal alternative.

This simple hack will give you the exact same look as the J.Crew collaboration for half the price.

First let's dissect what the look is. A gray canvas plimsoll, with a black bordered low sole. Orange and tan laces instead of the standard thick white athletic ones. And a distressed, worn in texture for that perfectly effortless summer feel.

I found a very comparably shaped gray plimsoll on Amazon (with Prime shipping and free returns) for only $24.56. It's the Levi's “Jordy 3” sneaker. The only real difference between this and the Vans version is the back seam is flipped, but that doesn't bother me or really change the look.

You can also get the standard Vans Lo Pro sneakers, but they ring up at $45, so it's not much of a savings from the J.Crew variant.

Levi's Sneakers hack before & after

We'll also need a set of 40″ round work boot style gold and tan laces. You can get a 2 pack for $7.

Once you have those, swap in the laces. Use the “store display” lacing method to get the same pattern. From there you have 3 options to get the faded, worn-in look of the Vans for J.Crew kicks. First, simply wear the heck out of them. Second, take some sand paper to them. This option gets the look, but it's a lot of work to do both shoes all over, and in my test, wore through the canvas  a little too far in some spots. It's also undoable if you mess up or don't like the result.

The third option may sound strange, but it's really easy and nails the look. The solution? Pat baby powder onto them. What? Yep. Simply rub a little bit of powder between your hands and pat onto the shoes in different spots. If you get a little too much in one spot, you can smack the shoes in that area and the extra will poof off. As you know if you use baby powder for chafing and sweat control, it can stay on fabric easily unless you actively wipe it off.  So this faux method will give you the uneven, faded texture you're looking for until the shoes have actually worn in.

Vans for J.Crew look for cheap - $32

A word of caution, don't try to apply the powder directly from the bottle onto the shoes, you'll end up with spots and will have to wipe it off and start over.

Order now:

Levi's Sneakers Vans for J.Crew Hack - only $32

Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.

  • Zac Silk

    Great article as always Andrew, just curious on how you clean your sneakers at the start of the summer? I’ve got a pair of canvas vans, that I switched out the laces for leather ones, and have had a bit of trouble keeping them white.

    • Matt M

      You can either throw them in the wash or get a brush and scrub the hell out of them with soap and water.

      • Zac Silk

        Thanks for the reply will probably just go for scrubbing them.

        • TEAdown

          For cleaning the white sole, toothpaste works wonders!

  • Sean

    Is anyone aware of a similar style shoe that would lean towards wide-width? I’ve looked and tried on similar styles (Albeit, not the Levi’s), but they’re always way too narrow for me.

  • David

    Baby powder… That’s genius!!! Great article Andrew, you have one of the best and down to earth magazines out there. I love it!!

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      Thanks David, you just made my day 🙂

  • Matt M

    Been doing this for years with standard Vans. One pair of the work boot laces are long enough to be cut and used on two pair of shoes.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      Nice! Just to clarify, in the article I specifically order 40″ laces which are the proper length. They would be too short to cut in half.

      • Matt M

        My bad!

        For those wanting to do this for multiple pairs of shoes, for an additional $2, you can get longer laces, cut them in half, and half laces for 2 pairs of shoes.

  • Michael

    There Recreate Style hacks are awesome! Keep it up. I’m going to do this hack! Great job!

    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      Let me know how it turns out!

  • Will

    Why must I have large feet? I miss out on all these great prices. 🙁

  • rogun

    Great idea with the baby powder!

    I’ve always been a fan of Pro-Keds, so it’s good to see they’re making them again. I was disappointed when they quit a few years ago.

  • Serafin Nunez
    • http://www.primermagazine.com/ Andrew

      I dig ’em! Like the leather accent.

  • http://areyoudesign.com/blog Sai-Kit Hui
  • John

    Thought this whole concept was GREAT. Up until I tried to find a pair of size 10. Amazon has them for $50. Absolutely cannot find them elsewhere. If anyone has a source, please let me know.