OK, I’ll explain.
There’s a bunch of video clips which have recently gone viral, featuring a Californian teenager called Daniel. He’s a snappy dresser who likes white Vans trainers (or ‘sneakers’ if you’re from the US).
As soon as he appears, his friend Josh says Damn Daniel! – as in ‘Wow Daniel! You’re so cool!’ – and occasionally adds the phrase: ‘Back at it again with the white Vans.’
The confusing thing for us Brits is that white vans over here are vehicles, as opposed to shoes. And, as you no doubt know if you’re British, the stereotype is that they’re driven by oafish blokes prone to road-rage, sexism and voting conservative.
White Van Man (first coined in 1997) is now an unofficial voting type, like Essex Man, Mondeo Man and Basildon Man – not to mention The Man on the Clapham Omnibus. All men. It’s like the Suffragettes never existed.
As for the popularity of ‘back at it again with the white Vans’, it certainly has a pleasing rhythm and it’s fun to say, but Slate Magazine makes a good point:
The truth of the video’s appeal may be that it’s a charming window onto a friendship, where one kid mocks another in a truly uncruel way, for just being himself. Oh, only you would walk around like that and wear shoes like that, you’re being sooo Daniel right now.
Josh and Daniel even appeared on Ellen and Daniel now has a lifetime’s supply of white Vans. The Vans marketing people must love him.
But, for me, the big question is: Why are white vans (as in Transits) and white Vans (as in trainers) so popular in the first place? White makes no sense on the street.
My friend M – aka The Imelda Marcos of Manchester – wears white trainers all the time. But he’s permanently on edge about them getting splashed or stood on, usually by me. The wetter and muddier it is, the more likely I am to commit an offence. I’m totally with Serial Mom when it comes to no white shoes after Labor Day (September).
White trainers are hopelessly impractical and a pain to keep white. But that’s precisely why they’re popular, according to my fashionista sources. If you can keep your sneakers pristine, then you’re cool.
One student at Damn Daniel’s high school told Hollywood Life:
It is kind of a big deal at our school to step on anyone’s new shoes, especially white shoes. That was the idea behind the video. The video was pointing out that he was being risky for wearing white Vans. Josh was kind of teasing Daniel about wearing new white Vans knowing that they would get stepped on. Everybody comes up to you and steps on them.
So is it the same rationale when it comes to the popularity of white vans (vehicles) in the UK? Is it about proving that you can keep your van as white as your Vans (so to speak)? Probably not. White vans are always filthy.
There is a more prosaic and possibly more plausible theory, which a white van dealer outlined on a white van website:
(1) white is highly visible
(2) white paint doesn’t fade, and
(3) it’s easier to put signage on white than on colours
All intelligent reasons. And it’s a perhaps surprising fact that your typical White Van Man is considerably more intelligent than the average driver.
In a 2011 survey of two thousand UK motorists, white van drivers scored highly in questions on art, music, geography and the Highway Code. Taxi drivers came bottom in almost every subject.
So what are the statistics on van choice?
57 per cent of UK van drivers opt for white, according to Direct Line. That’s two million vans.
11 per cent have silver vans
10 per cent prefer blue
As for me and white vans, well this is me in the only vehicle I’ve ever owned:
Damn Boll! Back at it again with the white Vans!