Vans Shoes and Almost 8 Decades Of Rebellion

You’ll rarely meet a person who hasn’t heard of (or owned) Vans shoes. These sneakers are true icons, beloved by various subcultures and people who want to show off their rebellious side.

The history of Vans, too, began with one such rebel. Young Paul Van Doren from Boston had a habit of skipping school and going to horse races to give out betting tips for money.

Paul’s mother didn’t like such activities, so she got her son a job in a shoe factory, where he worked for the next 20 years. That was the beginning of Vans.

Humble Beginnings 

In 1964, Paul and his brother moved from Boston to Garden Grove, California, where they managed to save an unprofitable division of the same shoe factory from bankruptcy. Perhaps this success gave Paul the confidence to start his own business soon.

In 1966, Paul, his brother, and two other partners opened the doors of the Van Doren Rubber Company and began selling the first sneakers with a rubber sole, the Vans Authentic.

At first, they made and sold only a tiny amount of these Vans shoes, but soon the unique sneakers became trendy, and new stores started popping up all over the area. 

Skateboarders and Surfers

Vans sneakers quickly became the favorite footwear choice of California skaters and surfers. Thus, in 1976, the famous #95 or Era model appeared, and with it, the legendary “Off the Wall” slogan and logo.

Three more specialized models soon followed, including the #36, now called the Vans Old Skool, and featuring the “jazz stripe” for the very first time. It was followed by the #38, the Sk8-Hi, which covered the ankles to protect skateboarders from injury.

Finally, the company introduced the #98 Classic Slip-On model, which became an instant classic.

Hollywood Success

In the 1980s, Universal Studios approached Vans to use their sneakers in the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High. 

The film starred Sean Penn, who himself was a skateboarder, and surfer and knew that Vans shoes were the “it” sneaker in the subculture.

Vans happily sent the filmmakers a few pairs, including a checkerboard pattern Slip-On pair. After the film’s release, the company’s revenue more than doubled, and the Slip-On became a “must-have” among young people.  

A New Era

In 1988 company “McCown De Leeuw & Co. Paul Vans” bought Vans for $74 million, and a new era began. 

The new owners continued the tradition of catering to the subcultures and introduced the Half Cab mid-profile model in 1992. These shoes were even more comfortable and were quickly adopted by skaters. 

In 2004, Vans was acquired by VF Corporation, which owns famous brands like The North Face, Dickies Timberland, and Supreme. This change introduced the brand and Van’s shoes to international markets and increased the company’s popularity and cult status.

Vans Old Skool

Vans Old Skool is one of the most recognizable skater shoes in the world. Sometimes they’re called the official hip-hop and rock’n’ roll footwear due to their popularity among these musicians.

Besides the rich and the famous, these simple, classic, and very comfortable sneakers won the hearts of skateboarders, cyclists, surfers, and urban fashion lovers. 

The Vans Old Skool model reached its peak popularity in the nineties, and today it dominates the streets from New York to Rome to Tokyo.

Most people easily recognize the Vans Old Skool patterns and designs that go all the way back to the sixties. Anyone can find a style they like, from classic black and white to red to checkerboard prints and even Toy Story motifs.

It’s not only the upper shoe that looks good! The Van’s Old Skool soles also have unique prints. So whether you’re looking for Vans women or Vans men, you’re guaranteed to look stylish and badass! 

Vans Sk8-Hi 

Originally called the #38, the Vans Sk8-Hi lace-up sneakers debuted in 1978 and were only the second sneakers to feature the “jazz stripe.” 

Skaters loved this model because the ankle padding provided much-needed support when transitioning from a horizontal to a vertical surface. This move was where many injuries occurred, so the padding and the extremely grippy waffle sole helped the skaters feel more secure.

The Vans Sk8-Hi quickly became popular among skaters, surfers, and BMX enthusiasts. The model’s popularity skyrocketed when the members of such bands as Black Flag, Bad Brains, Social Distortion, Slayer, Iron Maiden, and Ramones started wearing it on stage.

Another reason for Vans Sk8-Hi’s popularity was its unique designs. Yes, today, we’re not surprised by anything, but in the 1960s, the model was a true original. 

Vans Slip On

The third most popular Vans shoe model is Vans Slip On shoes, which first appeared in 1977. 

At that time, the model was called #98, but the shoe’s popularity remained even though the name had changed. 

Originally Vans Slip Ons were similar to moccasins, but later were improved and became a mix of moccasins and the Vans Era model, which was created by the most famous professional skateboarders of the time, Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta.

The Vans Slip-On quickly became popular in Southern California. Skaters were impressed by the model’s simplicity, strong soles with excellent grip, flexibility on the board, durability, and longevity.

You will probably recognize the iconic checkered and bold design, loved by those who want to express their personality. However, you can also choose from many other styles and colors – black and pastels will be perfect for the office! 

Vans For Every Day

The best thing about Vans shoes is that they are insanely comfortable and can be worn with anything.

From sportswear to casual outfits to work attire, you can easily style the shoes with most outfits. In summer, Vans look excellent with a dress or shorts, and in winter, with jeans or even woolen pants.

Today Vans have fans among both rebels and comfort and style-loving city folk, and while the shoes have undergone some technical improvements over the years, their trademark simplicity remained.

Find your favorite Vans shoes in our online shop and get an everyday staple for every occasion, season, and outfit. 

Written by Megan Taylor
Megan is a beauty expert who is passionate about all things makeup and glam! Her love for makeup has brought her to become a beauty pro at Glamour Garden Cosmetics.