Vans began life small. Back in 1966 it was just a family business, but right from the beginning, its creators dared to dream big. Paul Van Doren and three partners opened up their first ever store in Anaheim, California, and decided to go against the norm by making and selling their own shoes direct to the public.
Vans include some unique features that skateboarders instantly fall in love with – ‘soles like waffles that stick like syrup’. Surfers liked the custom design uppers part of shoe, and skaters dug the grip. They boasted more comfort, a reinforced heel, padding, arch support, and were super grippy. They were able to do what others struggled to, take the nerdy details that gives a skate shoe better performance, marry it with design, and give skaters the chance to express themselves with their feet.
Another thing that helped Vans reach their iconic status is their ability to evolve and change with trends, and innovation in design and function. Only a few years later, in 1975, the Vans #95 came out, now known as the Era. Sporting a padded collar and allowing for different colour combinations, it became the shoe of choice for a generation of skateboarders. They then moved on to the Vans Slip-On, and the trend moved beyond skaters as BMX riders came on board. In the 70s Vans also made it across the sea, and us Aussies could get in on the wave sweeping the U.S.
It only exploded from there. By the time the 80s rolled around, Vans was creating shoes for baseball, basketball, wrestling and even skydiving. Vans even hit the silver screen, with Sean Penn wearing the now iconic Vans Slip-Ons in the 1982 youth flick ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’.
By 1994, Vans is making its shoes overseas as well, and sponsored the inaugural Triple Crown of skateboarding. Before they know it, it develops into the Vans Triple Crown series, boasting events in skateboarding, BMX, surfing, wakeboarding, snowboarding, motocross and super cross.
In 2001, Vans financed the production of the movie ‘Dogtown and Z-Boys’, Stacy Peralta’s look at the beginnings of skateboarding and the personalities that evolved the sport. It’s also the same year Vans takes over the Vans Warped Tour, the leading action sports and music festival in the US.