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The History of Vans

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The History of Vans

Sophie Bironas, Editor

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Vans are a staple foot fashion for kids of all ages. They are currently some of the most popular shoes and have been, on and off, since their debut in 1966. This company has a rich history in the skate fashion industry.
In 1966, brothers Paul Van Doren and Jim Van Doren, along with their friends, Gordon Lee and Serge Delia, opened the first Vans store in Anaheim, California on March 16. That morning, 12 people purchased shoes that were made that day and ready to be picked up that afternoon.  

In the early 70’s, the name “House of Vans” was coined and skaters started wearing them because of their rugged make-up and sticky soles. By the mid-70’s, skaters throughout Southern California were wearing Vans. In 1976, Vans #95, known as “The Era” and designed by Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta, became the shoe of choice for a generation of skaters, and non-skaters, alike. In this same year, the famous “Off The Wall” logo was debuted, and with this, the brand would officially go down in the history books as “Classic.” In 1977, the “Old Skool” design was released with the iconic jazz stripe along the side. The Classic Slip-Ons became the rage in Southern California. In 1978, the iconic Sk8-Hi were released. They were the second design that was released with the “jazz stripe” and helped skaters by covering the part of the leg that they hurt the most, the ankle.  By the end of the 70’s, there were 70 stores throughout California.

In 1982, the classic “Slip-Ons” gained international attention when Sean Penn wore them in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.  However, in 1984, things took a turn for the Vans company, filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. Even though the company was popular and selling plenty of product, the wide range of materials used drained their resources, contributing to huge debts. The courts approved reorganization, and Paul Van Doren returned as President. Paul told the employees they may not get a raise for three years and they’d need to cut back on everything but the quality of Vans shoes. In December of 1987, Vans were able to pay off their 12 million dollar debt. One year later, The Steve Caballero, the first signature skate shoe, was released and debuted their weather resistant shoes.

In 1991, Vans became a public company, sharing stock for only 14 dollars a piece. A few years. later, Vans introduced the Snowboard Boot. In the year of 1995, they sponsored Warped Tour for the first time. The next year, Vans sponsored the Inaugural Triple Crown of Skateboarding event and launched a long term partnership series with Supreme of co-branded Old Schools. By 1997, Vans began creating the world’s leading action sports series with the purchase of the Triple Crown of Surfing, by 2000. The Vans Triple Crown Series included events in skateboarding, BMX, surfing, wakeboarding, snowboarding, freestyle motocross and supercross. The Series was broadcast on ESPN2. Towards the end of the 90’s, Vans opened a 46,000 square foot indoor/outdoor skatepark in Orange County. Daniel Franck won the silver medal wearing Vans snow boots.

In the 2000’s, Vans was recognized by Forbes as one of America’s Best Small Companies for 2000”. Vans entered into television broadcast deals for The Vans triple crown series with NBC sports and Fox Sports Net. In the winter of 2002, Danny Kass and Doriane Vidal each won medals in the Salt Lake City Olympic Games wearing Vans Snowboard boots. By 2003, the Vans Triple series is bigger than ever with over 285,000 people attending and 5,000,000 people watching on tv. Vans launched their Vans Customs on their website, which was a huge hit in 2004 and The Vans Warped Tour passed the 500,000 attendee plateau for the first time, while celebrating their 10 year anniversary. Half way through the decade, Vans creates a new concept in skate street contests with the Vans Downtown Showdown, held in the Universal Studios Hollywood Backlot on Labor Day. Vans continues to forge innovative collaborative efforts through the Vault by Vans line with Vans sneaker combinations with design giant Marc Jacobs. A year later, Vans celebrates 40 years at the Heart of Youth Culture. That same year, they release their unisex clothing and pro-skater Anthony Van Engelen becomes the first team rider for Vans apparel. Most skaters in 2007 were waiting for the most anticipated collection, Vans x Simpsons was released. In 2008, Vans brings it’s brand of Youth Culture to China with the opening of its first international store. Harry N. Abrams publishes “Vans: Off the Wall, Stories of Sole from Vans Originals,” which recounts the story of the many sports legends,artists and musicians who have helped shape Vans as an icon of California by 2009.

In 2010, Vans opened the first “House Of Vans” in Brooklyn, New York. 26 schools across the United States participate in Vans Custom Culture, the high school shoe customization contest which culminates in four schools traveling to Vans’ home turf for a weekend of activities including the final showcase at the Orange County Museum of Art. Winning school Rio Rancho High School of New Mexico receives a $10,000 grant towards the school’s art programs.Vans releases its first-ever surf film in 2011, named, “Get-N Classic, Vol. 1” featuring the Gudauskas brothers, Joel Tudor, John Florence and the rest of the Vans surf team. Vans surf program is clicking on all cylinders with the addition of the team’s first Australian in Wade Goodall and one of the most exciting surfers in the world, Dane Reynolds. Kristen Stewart cements her celebrity status on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in a pair of black and white checkered slip-ons, stamping the cement with the waffle sole. By 2012, the Vans Triple Crown series as the ultimate contest series in surf. Vans’ Get-N Classic Vol.2 was released in October of that year.

From 2013 and on, Vans started to gain more and more attention with the House of Vans going to the Mohawk stage at Austin’s south by southwest music festival. In the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, Iouri ‘Ipod’ Podladtchikov wins the gold medal wearing Vans snowboarding boots. The Vans Warped Tour celebrates 20 years of music and kicks off the season with a live broadcast of the opening day. Vans was chosen as “Brand of The Year” by Footwear News during the trade publication’s annual achievement in December. In the summer of 2015, Vans releases the Disney and Vans ‘Young at Heart’ and the Vault by Vans x Takashi Murakami collections. These collaborations become instant fan favorites selling out across the globe. Vans debuted Geoff Rowley’s first signature apparel collection with the launch of the new “Rowley Solo” in pro-skate. On March 16, 2016, Vans celebrated 50 years of “Off The Wall” heritage with the launch of The Story of Vans campaign. The historical multi-media campaign breaks records in viewership and is seen around the world in multiple languages. With a nod to the past and eyes on the future, Vans also expands the House of Vans by hosting ten activations around the world to honor the brand’s diverse history, while welcoming newcomers to the Vans family. Vans launches its 2017 brand campaign – This Is “Off The Wall”, defining the evolved meaning of the iconic slogan. The campaign brings to life what it means to live “Off The Wall” through a series of short films showcasing individuals who inspire the brand through their creativity, authenticity and passion

Vans continues to grow with over 370 stores in the U.S., Mexico and Canada and makes two billion dollars per year due to sales.

 

Vans is a staple piece of clothing and it’s logo is just as iconic.   

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