The legendary footwear (and apparel) brand “Vans” is a staple in many wardrobes across generational and geographical boundaries. It has come to represent sporting subcultures like skaters, snowboarders, surfers, and BMX. In fact, the trademark slogan of the brand, ‘Off the wall’ is about skateboarders who were landing new tricks in empty pools by literally skating off the wall.
Vans was originally called Van Doren Rubber Company
It was founded in March 1966 in Anaheim, California by brothers Paul and Jim Van Doren. They opened a small store with the help of two other business partners. The aim was to sell sports shoes for skaters. At the time they sold three models of shoes. But the only one that sold, is one now labeled, Vans Authentic. But it was then called model #44 deck shoes.
On the opening day, only twelve customers turned up to buy the shoes
The story goes that the customers all bought a pair of shoes but the brothers had no change. So the customers were told to turn up the next day to pay. Thankfully, they all did.
They created a special shoe for skaters
The Vans #95 model, now known as Vans Era was designed in 1976 by skaters Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta. The model is especially renowned for its extra padding around the collar, which provided added comfort to the skater.
The founder, James Van Doren’s son – Mark Van Doren was an avid skater and prompted his dad to start designing shoes for skaters. He also designed the first iteration of the brand’s skateboard label. It was originally meant as a stencil for him to use on his skateboard.
The label of the brand is based on a popular model
The Vans #98, which is the classic slip-on that the company produces became so popular that they decide to make it the brand logo.
Vans #98 helped the business grow
Because of the popularity of the single shoe, Vans gathered enough profit to open 70 other stores across the United States. Hence growing their business to never before seen heights.
Vans has produced movies
The first is a surf movie called Get-N Classic, Vol. 1. It showcases prominent surfers like Joel Tudor, John Florence, the Vans surf team, and Wade Goodall. They also have a full-length documentary called No Room for Rockstars.
Another important movie connection however is The Fast Times at Ridgemont High where Sean Penn wore the shoes and created lots of publicity for the brand.
Metallica has its own line of Vans shoes
In a collaboration between the band and the brand, each member of the band designed their own shoe. Other prominent Vans collaborators include The Simpsons, Murakami, Supreme, and Public Enemy.
Vans has a scholarship in partnership with the Berklee College of Music
The Berkklee College of Music is one of the world’s best Universities for modern contemporary music. The scholarship is called the Off The Wall Scholarship. It aims to finance aspiring musicians and covers full tuition, room, and board for the recipients.
The brand has its own skate parks
The brand’s first skate park was opened in 1998 at The Outlets at Orange in Orange, California. This was then followed by a 42,000 square foot skate park in Huntington Beach California which has now become a local attraction. And another skate park in London at Old Vic Tunnes called House of Vans.
The shoes are used by the US military
Part of the reason Vans popularity grew in the early ’70s was because the United States Department of Defense and United States Air Force started to place orders for models made especially for them. Prompting the brand to grow.