10 Major Moments In Vans’ History

Fast Times at Ridgemont High Sean
Sean Penn wearing slip-on Vans in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."
REX/Shutterstock.

An appearance at “Ridgemont High,” bankruptcy and billions in sales are among the 10 major moments on Vans’ wild ride.

1966

Brothers Paul Van Doren and Jim Van Doren launch The Van Doren Rubber Co., along with Gordon Lee and Serge D’Elia. On March 16, they open for business at 704 E. Broadway in Anaheim, Calif., where they manufacture shoes on site and sell them directly to the public. One of their first styles is the No. 44 deck shoe, now known as the Authentic.

Inside The Vans Factory Inside the Vans factory in 1966. Courtesy of brand.

1982

Sean Penn wears the Vans Checkerboard Slip-on in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” resulting in international attention for the brand.

1984

The company files for bankruptcy. Despite steady sales, Vans’ production costs drain company resources, and the firm fails to overcome its $12 million debt. As the courts approve a re-org plan, Paul Van Doren (below) returns as president and tells employees they may not get a raise for three years and that the brand must cut back on everything but the quality of its shoes. Within three years, Vans has paid back all creditors 100 cents on the dollar, and in December 1987, it emerges from Chapter 11.

1995

Vans begins its sponsorship of The Warped Tour, one of the longest-running concert series in America with thousands attending each summer.

Vans Warped Tour 2012 A crowd shot from the Vans Warped Tour in 2012. Courtesy of brand.

2003

The Vault by Vans collection launches, featuring the brand’s classic silhouettes updated with premium, high-fashion design.

Vault by Vans Collection The Vault by Vans Collection. Courtesy of brand.

2004

VF Corp. acquires the label for $396 million in cash. At the time, VF CEO Mackey McDonald told analysts, “VF is all about brands, [and Vans] is one of the strongest brands within the action-sports market.”

2010

The first House of Vans opens in the Greenpoint area of Brooklyn, N.Y., and serves as a cultural hub intended to inspire and connect with consumers and musical artists.

2011

In November, Vans passes $1 billion in annual sales for the first time, becoming the largest action-sports brand in the world.

2015

Vans releases its first “Young at Heart” collection with Disney, which soon turns out to be a fan favorite.

Vans Disney Kids Collection Vans “Young at Heart” Disney collection. Courtesy of brand.

2016

Vans marks 50 years of “Off the Wall” heritage. Now a $2.2 billion business, it celebrates the anniversary in 10 cities across the globe with special House of Vans events.

Want More?

The 10 Most Iconic Vans Sneakers Ever

The Top 10 Best Vans Collaborations

Skate Icon Steve Caballero Talks Making Sneaker History With Vans

Henry Rollins Talks Vans Sneakers, Ozzy Osbourne & Achieving Greatness

Kevin Bailey Maps Out the Road Ahead for Vans

Iconic Skateboarder Tony Alva On Vans, Music & Leaving A Legacy