March 16th, 1966, at street 704E Broadway, in Anaheim, California, Paul Van Doren and three partners opened up their first ever store and the Vans dream was born. The Van Doren Rubber Company was unique in that it manufactures shoes and sells them directly to the public. On that first morning, 12 customers purchase shoes which are made that day and ready for pick-up in the afternoon. The Vans #44 deck shoes, which are now known as the Authentic, were born.
Skateboarders who like Vans rugged make-up and sticky sole are seen sporting Vans all over Southern California in the early 1970s. In 1975, the Vans #95, known today as the Era was designed by Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta. With a padded collar and different colour combinations the Era becomes the shoe of choice for a generation of skateboarders.
In 1979, Vans introduce the #44 shoe, and with the help of skateboarders and BMX riders the Vans Slip-On became all the rage in Southern California. By the end of the 1970s, Vans had 70 stores in California and sells through dealers both nationally and internationally.
As the 1980s rolled around, Paul Van Doren began to take a lesser role in the companies’ activities. Over this period, Vans started to create shoes for a number of sports from baseball, basketball and wrestling to skydiving in an effort to compete with large athletic shoe companies.
Vans Slip-Ons gained international attention and appeal when they were worn by Sean Penn in the 1982, iconic youth film “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” Although Vans core shoes were selling well, the wide range of products that the company now offered had drained the companies resources, and with Vans not able to overcome its debt they were forced to file for bankruptcy in 1983.
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Just three years on, Vans had paid back all creditors and emerges from bankruptcy. In 1988 Vans original owners sell to an investment banking firm, and with the new owners financial backing, Vans expands and increases its worldwide presence.
Vans begins manufacturing footwear overseas in 1994, allowing for development of new shoe styles, and huge expansion occurs. Vans then begins creating the world’s leading action sport series with the sponsorship of the inaugural Triple Crown of skateboarding, which then develops into the Vans Triple Crown series which includes events in skateboarding, BMX, surfing, wakeboarding, snowboarding, motocross and super cross.
1998 sees Vans open the first of its kind, a 46,000 square-foot indoor-outdoor Vans Skate park at the Block in Orange County. Vans makes initial public offering of stock, which is now traded on the NASDAQ stock exchange.
Vans are recognized by Forbes in 2000 and then again in 2001 as one of “America’s Best Small Companies.” 2001 sees Vans financing the production of Dogtown and Z-Boys, Stacy Peralta’s look at the beginnings of skateboarding and the personalities that evolved the sport. The film takes the Audience Award and the Best Director Award at the Sundance Film Festival. The film is narrated by Sean Penn. The same year Vans buys controlling interest of the Vans Warped Tour, the nation’s leading action sports and music festival.
2004 Vans launches Vans Customs at www.vans.com , allowing would-be fashion designers to create their own Classic Slip-ons utilizing hundreds of different colour and pattern combinations. Vans stage what many consider to be the best bowl contest of all time, the inaugural Pro-tec Pool Party 2005 which took place in the replica of the legendary Combi Bowl at the Vans Skate Park at the Block at Orange. The same year, the Vans Warped Tour draws more than 680,000 punk fans during the summer, solidifying its position as America’s longest running concert series. Vans adopt a new concept in skate street contests with the Vans Downtown Showdown, held in the Universal Studios Back Lot on Labour Day.
Vans continues to forge innovative collaborations through the Vault by BVans line with Vans sneaker combinations with design giant Marc Jacobs and OC up-and-comers Trovata flying off the shelves. In 2006 Vans celebrates 40 years at the heart of youth culture.