How the checkerboard canvas slip-on become an iconic shoe representing skateboarding and punk rock is a very interesting story, especially when told by Steve Van Doren, the son of Paul Van Doren, the co-founder of the brand Vans. This, among other legendary tales from the O.G. of skateboarders such as Tony Alva, Steve Caballero, John Cardell, and Joel Tudor are all a part of a glossy, 200 page full-color book called “Vans: Off the Wall: Stories of Sole from Vans Originals,” written by Vans VP of Marketing and former editor of Snowboarder Magazine, Doug Palladini. Images in the book also showcase some of the best skate photography in the world featuring CR Stecyk, R. Grant Brittain, Trevor Graves, and Art Bewer.
The book released June 4th is catching a lot of attention not only for it’s interesting story and imagery of how a shoe company became such a legendary symbol and brand, but also how skateboarding from Southern California evolved from the ’70’s into the industry that it is today.
As Steve Van Doren put it, “SoCal skaters adopted us because they realized that the vulcanized rubber soles helped them feel their skateboarder better.” This was just the bginning. The Vans style number 98, the classic slip-on in black and white checkerboard pattern, catapulted the brand from a $20 million company, as estimated by Steve, into a $45 million company after Sean Penn wore his own pair as part of his “Jeff Spicoli” character in the movie, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
Since then, there have been many changes to Vans, going from a mom-and-pop business and selling shoes to small surf shops where customers could buy custom fabrics and shoes for $4-8 dollars, to being sold in 2004 to VF Corp., one of the largest apparel brands in the world, and which also owns brands such as Wrangler and Reef, for $396 million.
Steve Van Doren, who still works for Vans, along with his daughter Kristy, are featured in the book and a series of short online video clips that tell the story of how their family brand came to be and what the scene was like in Southern California in the early ’70s and ’80s, as part of various promotional efforts for the book release. Coupled with legendary skateboard profiles from Vans wearers, plus Vans involvement and crossover into music as a favorite shoe for many top bands, the book is a must-read for anyone curious about youth culture, skateboarding, and brand marketing.