American company Vans began life way back in 1966, when brothers Paul and James van Doren began making (and selling) vulcanized deck shoes in Anaheim, California. By the mid-1970s, the company was active in the skateboard market, and the first ever Vans skateboarding shoe, the ‘Era’, with padded back, an outside heel counter and the ‘Off the Wall’ label, arrived in 1976.
Used by Santa Monica skaters such as Stacy Peralta and Tony Alva, the ‘Era’ was soon followed by the ‘Skate Hi’ with padded sides, and the distinctive ‘Slip-On’, still an important part of the Vans range today. The popularity of Vans shoes exploded worldwide after Sean Penn wore the checkerboard slip-on in the Hollywood movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Over the years, classic signature models have included Steve Caballero’s vulc mid-cut ‘Half Cab’, Geoff Rowley’s pioneering lightweight ‘Rowley XLT’, and Jim Greco’s lo-tech creeper-inspired ‘Escobar’. The current Vans range features signature shoes from Rowley, Chima Ferguson, Gilbert Crockett, Anthony van Engelen and Tony Trujillo, and there are also eleven pros on the Vans skate team including Pedro Barros, Jason Dill, Elijah Berle and Curren Caples.
As well as sponsoring skaters, Vans also sponsors many events, such as the Warped Tour, Bowlarama at Bondi Beach, the Triple Crown contest series, Simple Session’s Best Trick contest and the unique Downtown Showdown team competition, as well as running a 20,000 square foot indoor skatepark in Orange County, California. It has also released some great videos, most recently the full-length ‘Anthem’ commercial from 2013.