Skater Fashion and Streetwear Staple
When Vans first started there were three styles of shoes that sold between $2.49 and $4.99 per pair. That was back in 1966, and since then the company has gone through some huge changes.
The first Vans store was opened on March 16, 1966 in Anaheim, California by Paul Van Doren, James Van Doren, Gordon Lee, and Serg D’Elia. On this day, one of the models that they sold were deck shoes, which ironically they still make today and are now known as “Authentic” and are the brand’s most iconic silhouette and one of its best-sellers.
The company continued to grow in the 1970s. They were contracted by the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force to produce wool-lined canvas and rubber mukluks.
The Skateboarding Community
Their main market however was still the skateboard community and during the 1970s, Vans were being worn all over Southern California by skateboarders. In 1975, Vans made a huge breakthrough when Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta designed the Vans #95, known today as the “Era,” which quickly became a fan favorite by skateboarders due to their non-slip sole.
In 1976, they introduced the Vans #44, which became known as the “Slip-On” and became the top shoe in Southern California.
By the end of the decade, Vans had grown to seventy stores in California and was sold both nationally and internationally through dealers.
During the 1980s, Vans gained immense mainstream popularity when Sean Penn’s character wore the Vans Slip-Ons in the iconic classic, Fast Times at Ridgemont High in 1982.
Bankruptcy and New Management
The 80s were also a time of experimentation for the company as Vans started creating shoes for a number of different sports, including wakeboarding and motocross. The move did not work and by 1984, Paul Van Doren was forced to file for bankruptcy due to a $12 million debt.
In 1988, Paul Van Doren sold the Vans Company to McCown De Leeuw & Co. for $74.4 million.
In 1994, Vans closed their Orange County, California factory and began manufacturing footwear overseas. That year they also sponsored the inaugural Triple Crown series which later developed into the Vans Triple Crown series.
In 1998, the company opened a 46,000 square foot indoor-outdoor Vans Skate park at the Block in Orange County, California.
Becoming One of the Top Small Businesses in America
The 2000s have been a great time for the company as Vans has been recognized by Forbes as one of the top small businesses in America, opened an enclosed skate park in Orlando, Florida, and launched the innovative Vans “Customs” on their website that allows customers to design their own pair of Vans shoes.
Today, Vans has expanded its reach to sell a variety of products, including shoes, t-shirts, hoodies, socks, watches, iPhone cases, hats, beanies, and backpacks. The Vans brand has also collaborated with Marc Jacobs, Wtaps, Supreme, Paul Frank, Stussy, Christian Hosoi, Jason Jesse, and Mr. Cartoon.
They also have famously sponsored the uber popular Warped Tour for over nearly two decades and have sponsored huge x-sports athletes like Leila Hurst and Shaun White.
Celebrities Wearing Vans
In addition to sponsors, Vans have made fans of millions of people, and the shoes have been seen worn by the likes of celebrities such as Taylor Swift, Owen Wilson, Zac Hanson, Lucy Liu, Justin Long, and Zac Efron. Jessica Biel, Hugh Jackman, Ashley Olsen, and Jason Segal.
With such a huge following it comes as no surprise that Vans are some of the most recognizable shoes around and they continue to remain sought over by sneaker fans all over.