A Short History Of Vans - A Brand For The People
Vans is a brand that is very near and dear to our hearts. People from all over the world gravitate towards the brand because it embraces and cares for its following. Because of this philosophy, the brand has been a cultural icon for over half a century. We feel proud to call ourselves members of the Vans family and to stock their exclusive line - Vault by Vans. Vault by Vans reiterates their OG classics in old-school, and new, colourways whilst utilizing premium materials. In our opinion, it’s the best bang for your buck that Vans has to offer. The shoes have a rich history that all started in California, which we would like to touch upon in this blog.
It all starts in 1966, when Jim and Paul van Doren, together with two friends, founded the Van Doren Rubber Company. Here they produced simple deck shoes named #44, which later on would be known as Vans’ Authentic model. The company was able to set itself apart from the competition by offering customers the option to bring in their own fabrics for the upper of the shoe. If the fabric was workable, the shoes would be ready for the customer the next day. Californian folks caught wind of this service and the company started to become a phenomenon in the area of Anaheim. Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t this service though that popularized the company even further. The sticky waffle sole of their shoes did, as it was perfect for skating. Within no time the whole of Southern California could be seen skating in Vans.
Picture inside the Van Dorren Rubber Company (through vans.com)
Within less than a decade Vans was the #1 Californian skate brand. During the 70s the brand had renamed itself 'Vans', as skaters would talk about “quickly grabbing a pair of Van’s” before heading off on a trip. A beautiful sign of recognition if you ask us. But it doesn’t just stop there. Legendary skater Tony Alva a.k.a Mad Dog (we couldn’t not mention that nickname) approached the brand and asked if he could design a shoe that would be slightly more suited for skateboarding - the result was #95, which would, later on, be known as the Era. The shoe was similar to the Authentic, but padded ankle support was added to offer some form of protection. What also was special about the shoe was that it had a multicoloured upper - navy blue and red. Vans used to sell single shoes, as skaters would much faster mess up the shoe on their front standing leg. Kids could be seen wearing different coloured shoes, so the idea to combine the colours on a single upper was sparked. This was also the first time that the brand added their ‘Off the Wall’ logo on the heel of the shoe, an addition that was also inspired by skaters. By now Vans had fully embraced their skater fandom.
Throughout the 70s Vans would further develop shoes that supported skaters and that would go on to be iconic silhouettes. In 1977 #31 was designed, the Old Skool, to be a more durable shoe for skaters, as it had leather panels added. This also was the first shoe that debuted Vans’ classic ‘Jazz Stripe’. What was originally a doodle by Paul van Doren, would go on to compete as a recognizable logo with other sports brands like Nike and Adidas. In the same year #98, the Slip-on was also released, which would go on to be their biggest hit. Just a year later they hit a home run again with #38, the Sk8-Hi. This innovative style featured proper ankle support and changed the aesthetic of the Cali skate scene forever. Though the whole of California was wearing Vans, the rest of the world still had to catch up. This would all change in 1982 with the release of the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High in which Sean Penn famously wore his pair of checkerboard slip-ons. If you’re interested in that story, check out this blog.
A still of Jay Adams in the documentary Dogtown and Z-boys
To us, it’s pretty evident that Vans has gained massive success by listening to its audience and appreciating them. During the 80s, the brand had a hick-up as it started to rapidly expand by producing shoes and gear for almost every sport imaginable, with that it deviated from its core audience. This led to a near-bankruptcy which was luckily turned around by Paul van Doren within just three years. The brand went back to focus on skateboarding, it has only been up from that point onward (of course, business-wise lots changed as well). The constant dialogue with their audience and the mutual recognition is what makes the brand such a success. Despite it being a multi-billion dollar company, the brand is still approachable and actively contributes to the skateboarding scene. To us, that is what truly makes the brand special.
You can check out the Vault by Vans collection here.