With roots in old school, skate-culture California, Vans create timeless shoes. You’d find it hard not to find a pair of Authentics in any street-wise teen or twenty-something’s shoebox.
Click images to enlarge.
Started up in ’66 by the Van Doren brothers, Paul and James, as a down-town California quality casual shoe shop, Vans has gone through the motions to become an i-Conic household name with surfer dudes, skater kids and fashionistas alike handing over their P’s to get their hands on a pair of slip-ons, mid-cuts or high-tops, but forever and always Vans are Grounded in Boards and Bikes.
Steve Van Doren, son of Paul was there to watch from the sidelines as the likes of Dogtown legends Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta skated in and out of the shop, as Sean Penn sent the sneakers viral after Fast Times at Ridgemont High and has been the brains behind the brand for the last 30 years, coining its counter-culture slogan ‘Off The Wall’. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Vans Half-Cab and Mr Van D is proud to present in collaboration with skater boy Steve Caballero, a new Anniversary Half Cab colourway each month of 2012. To top off the year, after a few stints here in the 90’s, the Vans Warped Tour is coming back to England this November, and is all set to see the do-it-yourself generation singing, skating and extreme sporting.
i-D online talk boarders, BMXer’s and California coastal cool with Steve Van Doren.
Have the majority of Vans shoes been designed with sports in mind or for everyday streetwear? Up till the mid 1970s our shoes were designed for everyday wear. Skateboarders wore our shoes because they lasted longer and gripped their skateboards better because of our special waffle bottom outsole.
The Vans brand over the years has become internationally loved. How do you believe Vans forged that connection with worldwide consumers? Time and Passion. You don’t make good wine overnight and you don’t make a great brand overnight either. My father, Paul, and his two partners, Jim Van Doren and Gordon Lee, put in years of passion towards making great shoes. Last decade, we were acquired by VF Corporation. They have injected us with many resources – greater global distribution, more quality designers and staff that have helped us grow Vans by geographically going where we’ve never been before.
Would you say a great deal of the brand’s success came from Sean Penn wearing a pair of checkered slip-ons in the 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High? I was 10 years old when my Dad started Vans in 1966. When Fast Times came out I was in my 20s and I had never seen so much excitement worldwide for our brand. Spicoli was a teenage icon: the cool teenage surfer dude and Vans fit him to a tee!
When did the Vans brand realize it had gained a following of skateboarders and why do you believe that was? We realized it in the mid 70’s. This was the time of the Dogtown skate legends. The local skaters would come into our Vans stores and buy our classic deck shoes. The skaters and surfers adopted us really. My father wasn’t much on advertising back in the day so we relied on our product and word-of-mouth.
Where do you draw your inspiration from? I look at feet all the time and teens everywhere. It was easy years ago when we had our own factories here in California. I could see thousand of ideas and if I liked something I would just make a sample. It goes all the way back before the checkerboard shoe was created. I saw many kids coloring their Vans’ white rubber around the shoes with a checkerboard pattern. So I went and printed the rubber with checkerboard on them and began offering this for custom-made shoes.
Has it been hard to design a versatile shoe that can withstand sports like skateboarding but also work for day to day use? No, not really. We’re not a running shoe company where you pound a shoe for 6 miles. My father and his partners were in the shoe business for 20 years before starting Vans and knew how important fit was.
What collection or specific shoe are you most proud of? And what are you most likely to be seen in? I am most proud that the original 1966 Vans Style #44 has lasted 46 years and is still our #1 selling-style today as the Authentic. I was always a Slip-on guy and 95% of the time I wear our Slip-ons. I also am as proud of our Vault line as they are pricy, but people all over the planet love Vans and want to purchase them in premium materials.
What do you envisage for the future of the brand? My father told the people who bought his company from him years ago that Vans was a fire hydrant just dripping a little water and if you can just open the valve up Vans can be anything you want it to be. His dream is alive and well today.
Can you tell me about the concept behind the Warped Tour? The Vans Warped Tour has become the perfect intersection of music, action sports and charitable causes, showcased in more than 45 cities around the USA each year and now coming back to England. The concept first came about 18 years ago when Warped founder Kevin Lyman wanted to get a national music tour around the USA. At the same time, I wanted national exposure for skateboarding and he needed money to keep his dream alive. We thought that it would be a great platform for Vans to be able to showcase pro skaters as well as give top amateurs a platform to show their skills.
Who is on the lineup and what charities will Vans be supporting? This year’s line up includes well known headliners Lost Prophets and Bring Me The Horizon as well as a host of other fantastic bands, some quite well known and some totally unknown, this is what Vans Warped Tour is all about!
Charities – Keep-A-Breast & Music Saves Lives are already on board and more to be confirmed.
Text: Felicity Kinsella