On March 16, 1966, at 704 East Broadway in Anaheim, California, brothers Paul Van Doren and James Van Doren, Gordon C Lee, and Serge D'Elia opened the first Vans store under the name The Van Doren Rubber Company. The business manufactured shoes and sold them directly to the public. On that first morning, twelve customers purchased Vans deck shoes, which are now known as "Authentic". The company displayed three styles of shoes, which were priced between US$2.49 and US$4.99, but on the opening day, the company had only manufactured display models without any inventory ready to sell—the store rack boxes were actually empty.

Nevertheless, the twelve customers selected the colors and styles they desired, and were asked to return later in the afternoon to pick up their purchases. Paul Van Doren and Lee then rushed to the factory to manufacture the selected shoes. When the customers returned that afternoon to pick up their shoes, Paul Van Doren and Gordon C Lee realized that they had forgotten to maintain a cash reserve to provide change to customers. The customers were therefore given the shoes and asked to return the following day with their payments. All twelve of the customers returned the following day to pay for their items.

The original version of the Vans skateboard logo was designed in Costa Mesa, California in the 1970s by Mark Van Doren at the age of 13.  The son of then President- and co-owner James Van Doren, Mark designed the logo as a stencil to be spray painted on his skateboards.  Initially introduced for the heel tab on an early Vans’ skateboard shoe, the Style 95, this original Vans skateboard logo is an important part of Vans history.”

In 1988, Paul Van Doren and Gordon C Lee sold the Vans company to the banking firm McCown De Leeuw & Co. for US$74.4 million. In 1989, many manufacturers of counterfeit Vans shoes were apprehended by the US and Mexican officials and ordered to cease production.

In 2004, Vans announced it would merge into North Carolina based VF Corporation.

In August 2013, the Vans skateboard team filmed a video, and team rider Geoff Rowley explained in an interview that the video will represent a team of grateful Vans riders returning the suprt that they have received from the shoe brand thus far. Skateboard filmmaker Greg Hunt, who previously worked on the Alien Workshopvideo Mindfield, is solely responsible for the video and it is the first-ever project that Hunt has been given complete creative control over.

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