With shoe manufacturing experience on the East Coast, Paul Van Doren and Gordy Lee moved to southern California in 1966 to produce shoes. After setting up a plant in Anaheim, the company became known as the Van Doren Rubber Company making shoes known simply as Vans.
During this same period, Van Doren & Lee opened a retail shop offering three styles. The store’s opening was unpromising, as the only models that were available were on display. Nevertheless, the store had 12 customers that day, whose orders were taken, and a California footwear legend was born.
After customers complained about cracking of the waffle pattern on the shoes rubber bottoms, the company added vertical lines to the ball area and patented the new design. In the 1970s with the growth of the skateboarding craze, Vans quickly became the skateboarder’s shoe of choice.
In the late 1970s, a slip-on version was introduced which became all the rage in the 1980s, especially when bright color combinations and patterns were added to the shoes’ canvas upper part. Confirming their iconic status during this decade, the shoes were even worn by Sean Penn’s character “Spicoli” in the teenage classic Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
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