In 1944, Paul Van Doren dropped out of intermediate school and he started to work at Randy’s, a shoe manufacturer. Paul eventually became the executive vice president of the company at just 34 years old. Randy’s became one of the biggest shoe manufacturers in the US.
From Van Doren’s quick success, he was ordered to turn around a failing Randy’s factory in Garden Grove, California. Three months after trying to save the Garden Grove factory, Paul decided he wanted to start his own shoe brand.
On March 16, 1966, at 704 East Broadway in Anaheim, California, brothers Paul Van Doren and James Van Doren and Gordon C. Lee opened the first Vans store under the name The Van Doren Rubber Company. The business manufactured shoes and sold them directly to the public.
On that first morning, twelve customers purchased Vans deck shoes, which are now known as "Authentic". The company displayed three styles of shoes, but on the opening day, the company had only manufactured display models without any inventory ready to sell, the store rack boxes were actually empty. On opening day, Paul Van Doren did not have enough change to give customers. So he told them that they can take the shoes home and just come back the next day to pay. The following day, all the customers came back to pay.
The original version of the Vans skateboard logo was designed in the 1970s by Mark Van Doren at the age of 13. The son of James Van Doren, Mark designed the logo as a stencil to be spray-painted on his skateboards. It was initially introduced for the heel tab on an early Vans’ skateboard shoe, the Style 95, now known as the Era. After his son's interest in skateboarding James decided to manufacture skateboarding shoes.
In 1977, Vans #36, the Old Skool, debuts with the now famous Vans Sidestripe. The Old Skool is Vans' first skate shoe that incorporated leather panels for increased durability. What started as a random doodle by Paul Van Doren was originally referred to as the "jazz stripe" and has become the unmistakable hallmark of the Vans brand.
The Vans #98 is also introduced and with the help of skateboarders and BMX riders, Vans Classic Slip-Ons become the rage in Southern California and will come to be the original Slip-On silhouette that will be known as an icon for generations.
The Sk8-Hi was introduced in 1978 as "Style 38," and took skate functionality to the next level above the ankle, where skateboarders used and abused their lower extremities the most.
In 2012, Vans introduces the first vulcanized cupsole. The new WAFFLECUP™ technology combines the best of both worlds with the support and durability of a cupsole and the superior boardfeel and grip of the traditional Vans vulcanized shoe.
Vans begins creating the world's leading action sports series with the purchase of the Triple Crown of Surfing; by 2000 the Vans Triple Crown Series will include events in skateboarding, BMX, surfing, wakeboarding, snowboarding, freestyle motocross and supercross.
Vans has done several collaborations with well known designers, including Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs. They have also came out several unique capsules, such as The Simpsons, The Beatles Yellow Submarine, Star Wars and the most beloved Disney characters, Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh and Donald Duck.
Vans sponsored a trans-disciplinary studio for students to consider the world of 2025, and how the iconic shoe/apparel/lifestyle company could engage future customers in a broader world market, while offering sustainable designs, transportation and manufacturing practices along with consumer-driven customizations.
Currently, Vans creates and sells 60 million pairs of shoes annually, with only 40,000 pairs customized. That number is expected to grow dramatically in the coming years. To help Vans achieve customizations on a global scale, design teams would need to streamline current manufacturing strategies to be cost effective and less labor intensive while simultaneously fulfilling sustainability requirements. Additionally, students were encouraged to incorporate future technology (digital interfaces, 3-D printing, etc.) into their design concepts.