Fluid shear stresses are potent regulators of vascular homeostasis and powerful determinants of vascular disease progression. The glycocalyx is a layer of glycoaminoglycans, proteoglycans, and glycoproteins that lines the luminal surface of arteries. The glycocalyx interacts directly with hemodynamic forces from blood flow and, consequently, is a prime candidate for the mechanosensing of fluidic shear stresses. Here, we investigated the role of the glycocalyx component syndecan-1 (sdc-1) in controlling the shear stress-induced signaling and flow-mediated phenotypic modulation in endothelial cells. We found that knock-out of sdc-1 abolished several key early signaling events of endothelial cells in response to shear stress including the phosphorylation of Akt, the formation of a spatial gradient in paxillin phosphorylation, and the activation of RhoA. After exposure to atheroprotective flow, we found that sdc-1 knock-out endothelial cells had a phenotypic shift to an inflammatory/pro-atherosclerotic phenotype in contrast to the atheroprotective phenotype of wild type cells. Consistent with these findings, we found increased leukocyte adhesion to sdc-1 knock-out endothelial cells in vitro that was reduced by re-expression of sdc-1. In vivo, we found increased leukocyte recruitment and vascular permeability/inflammation in sdc-1 knock-out mice. Taken together, our studies support a key role for sdc-1 in endothelial mechanosensing and regulation of endothelial phenotype.