Vans: “Off the Wall”

October 9, 2021

VANS is an American manufacturer of skateboarding shoes with 471 retail stores across the United States.

Vans 471 U.S. Store Locations

In 1966, Paul Van Doren decided to open his own shoe company. He had worked a number of years at Randy’s, a California shoe manufacturer, and knew the shoe business inside and out. On March 16, 1966, together with his brother James and Gordon C. Lee, they opened their first store at 704 East Broadway in Anaheim, California. They called their store The Van Doren Rubber Company.

On their first morning of business, 12 customers bought Vans deck shoes, now known as “Authentic.” They had three styles on display which were priced between $2.49 and $4.99, but they only had display models as they had not yet manufactured any inventory. They also didn’t have enough change to give customers, so he gave them the shoes to take home and told them they could come back the following day to pay for them. The next day, every customer returned to the store to pay for their shoes.

In the 1970s, Mark was inspired by his son James, who had a keen interest in skateboarding, to manufacture skateboard shoes. In 1976, James who was then 13 years old, designed the “Off The Wall” skateboard logo. The logo was slang used by skateboarders doing tricks in empty pools.

Vans improved their skateboard shoe with Sidestripe #36, released in the 1970s. It has since become known as the Old Skool design.

VANS Bearcat Skateboard Shoes

Van’s in Wisconsin, U.S.

In 1984, competitors began manufacturing knock-off copies of Vans shoes, forcing the company to lower prices. In 1989, many of those manufacturers were apprehended by the US and Mexican officials and ordered to cease production.

In 1988, Paul Van Doren and Gordon C. Lee sold the Vans company to the banking firm McCown De Leeuw & Co. for $74.4 million USD.

The company flourished and, in 1991, was renamed Vans, Inc. In 1991, the company went public at $14 USD per share on NASDAQ.

In the ’90s, VANS introduced a number of new skateboard and snowboard shoes.

In 2016, VANS celebrated its 50th anniversary and released a new logo.

Also in 2016, they launched a campaign to create awareness of their new product lines for other sports. The company also sponsors surf, snowboarding, BMX, and motocross teams. 

From 1996 to 2019, the company has been the primary sponsor of the annual Vans Warped Tour, America’s longest-running series in.

In 1998, Vans opened its first skate park at The Outlets at Orange, in Orange, CA. The park features a 20,000-square-foot indoor street course, a combi pool, which is 12 feet deep, an area for amateurs, mini ramps, an outdoor street course, and an arcade. The park was updated in 2009.

The company built its second skate park in Huntington Beach, California in 2010 and pays the city $1 USD per year for the 20-year lease.  

In 1982, Sean Penn wore a pair of checkerboard slip-ons in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which gave the brand national popularity in the US.

Gloria Sauvé
Communications and Marketing

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