Vans Brand Guide

Vans Brand Guide

In 1966, Paul Van Doren and his three partners opened up their first store in California, with the unique technique of manufacturing shoes ready for their customers to pick up on the same day. The story goes like this:

As the company itself tells it, the opening of its first store was inauspicious. Vans offered three styles, priced from $2.49 to $4.99, but on the day the store opened for business, the company had only made display models. The store racks were filled with empty boxes. Nevertheless, 12 customers came into the store and chose the colors and styles they wanted. The customers were asked to come back in the afternoon, while Van Doren and Lee rushed to the factory to make their shoes. When the customers returned to pick up the shoes, Van Doren and Lee realized that they had neglected to have money available to make change. The customers were given the shoes and asked to return the next day to pay for them. All 12 customers did.

The initial offering from Vans was the Style #44, now known as the Authentic. Each of Van Doren’s original designs was dubbed with a reciprocal numerical code, this process being revitalised for their Anaheim collection. 

By the end of the 1970s’ Vans had opened 70 stores in California alone, whilst selling through national and international dealers. The blossoming skate culture of California was known in particular for their love of Vans, being adopted as the defacto skate company thanks to its hand in the formulation of the sport. The adoption from skaters Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta and Jay Adams saw the shoe championed by the innovators of the street skate scene, with both Alva and Peralta working heavily with Vans on their second model, the robust and padded Era model. This co-sign from the culture alongside, their ability to adapt ideas from consumer feedback (the waffle sole design, the checkerboard pattern amongst others) and the Slip Ons chance inclusion in Sean Penn’s break out movie, Fast Times At Ridgemont High.

After a whirlwind ascension that saw the brand move deeper into speciality sports footwear, developing baseball, football, umpiring, basketball, soccer, wrestling, boxing, and skydiving shoes all the while expanding their domestic production, the financial impact of such a sudden growth came crashing down on the brand, the company has to file for bankruptcy in 1984, squaring all debts in 1987 and launching their first signature skate shoe with legendary skater, Steve Caballero, birthing the most recognised signature model in the form of the Full Cab and it’s popular variant, the Half Cab.

From then on the Cali brand picked its pedigree back up, selling the company on whilst keeping the Van Doren family involved, outsourcing production, signing the best up and coming pro skaters to the skate team, innovating their footwear in the extreme sports world to offer similar quality levels. A collaboration with then up and coming skate brand Supreme lent a large amount of legitimacy to the Vans company that it had missed since it’s takeover, providing a constant source of creating for both brands with a line that still exists to this day.

From the 00s onward the brand has seen itself become a feature in fashion, rubbing shoulders with established sporting companies like Nike, adidas and New Balance

Collaborations with COMME des GARÇONS, Raf Simmons and A.P.C amongst others have seen the brand championed as the premier skate shoe brand in the world.

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