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April 06, 2020

Vans: Success from sticking to the key classic styles

Vans has become a staple of American footwear, a brand on the same level as much older brands such as Converse (which is twice as old) and larger brands such as Nike (which is almost ten times as large). It's a brand that has had its ups and downs, including filing for bankruptcy protection, but found it's brand strength in authenticity.

forest green vans shoes

Vans started with the Van Doren Rubber Company in 1966. The business was run by brothers Paul Van Doren and Jim Van Doren, as well as partners Gordan Lee and Serge Delia. The opened their business on March 16, both manufacturing and selling its shoes on the premises.

Vans #44 was it's the first style produced and is now known as the Authentic. The sticky 'waffle' sole and rugged look made it a popular choice in footwear for Californian skaters in the early 1970s.

In 1976 the company produced a new style the Vans #95. It's now known as the Era. The Era featured a padded collar and different color combinations. It was designed by Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta, and was a big hit with skaters.

1970s ad Vans shoe

Retro Vans advertisement

A year later in 1977 the Vans #36 debuts, now known as the Old Skool, with its now-famous Vans Sidestripe. The Old Skool was Vans' first skate shoe which incorporated leather panels that increased durability.

The Sidestripe design feature started as a random doodle by Paul Van Doren, which he referred to as the "jazz stripe". It's now an instantly recognised hallmark of the Vans brand.

Shortly after the Vans #98 is also introduced, known now as the Classic Slip-Ons. Popular with both skateboarders and BMX riders the Vans Classic Slip-Ons become the rage in Southern California.

By the end of the 1970s, the company had vastly grown with 70 Vans stores in Calfornia and was stocking to the rest of the States, as well as internationally.

Style 38, now know as Sk8-Hi was introduced in 1978. A very innovative and functional new design that protected the ankle.

Frank Ocean Vans

Singer/musician Frank Ocean, 2017

Vans can be seen on many celebrities today such as Frank Ocean. Perhaps the first celebrity appearance of Vans was when Sean Penn wore Classic Slip-Ons in the 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The appearance increased the brand's international attention and appeal.

1984 was a tough year for the brand, it filed for bankruptcy protection. The core styles were still selling but the company's resources were drained by unpopular products. Paul Van Doren returns as the appointed Vans President and shifts the focus solely on the quality of the shoes. In three years he successfully has got Vans to pay off its creditors, and out of the $12 million debt.

In 1995 Vans sponsors the Warped Tour for the first time. In 2001 the company buys a controlling interest in what is now the Vans Warped Tour.It's the longest-running concert series in America.

In 2000, Forbes magazine names Vans as "One of America's best small companies for 2000).

Jay Adams Dogtown and Zboys

Jay Adams in Dogtown and Z-Boys

Vans assists with the production of the cult classic film Dogtown and Z-Boys in 2001. The critically acclaimed film looks at the beginnings of skateboarding and the personalities that evolved the sport. The film is narrated by Sean Penn. The film's success helps firming cement Vans' skateboarding heritage.

From the early 2000s to today, Vans keeps it's brand strong and interesting by constantly reinterpreting in five classic styles: the Era, the Old Skool, the Slip-On, the Authentic, and the Sk8-Hi. It created Vans Vault, a high-end collection of collaborations with companies, artists and designers such as Disney, Takashi Murakami, and Karl Lagerfield.

Empire Skate is proud to stock a wide range of Vans, shop here.




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