The Van Doren Rubber Company, what we know today as Vans, began in 1966 in Anaheim, California. From a 400-square-foot storefront, founder Paul Van Doren sold three styles of shoes of his own manufacture and design for prices that ranged from $2.49 to $4.99. Over the next few years, Van Doren opened a string of shoe stores throughout Southern California.

From day one, the idea was to skip the middleman and sell his shoes directly to customers. Soon, two groups of Vans fans had brought the company into the footwear mainstream—skateboarders, followed by BMX cyclists. Also from day one was the practice of customizing shoes. Indeed, today, Vans shoes are more like canvases for self-expression than mere sneakers, whether it's the checkerboard slip-ons worn by Sean Penn in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" or the new, limited-edition kicks designed by acclaimed artist Takashi Murakami.


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