The History and Story Behind the Vans Logo

Vans are a brand of shoe that first launched in 1966. The company was founded by brothers Paul Van Doren and James Van Doren, along with Gordon C. Lee. Their first store was opened at 704 East Broadway in Anaheim, California. The company manufactured their own shoes and sold them directly to the public via this store. The full name of the business was The Van Doren Rubber Company but it soon became known as Vans.

First Logos

The first logo that the company used was just a printed version of the word VANS. A line extended from the top of the V with ‘ANS’ written in slightly smaller letters underneath it. This logo was featured on all the shoes that the company produced, either on the outside of the shoe, or inside it.

The original version of the skateboarding logo with the ‘ Off The Wall’ text was designed in the 1970s by the son of President and co-owner James Van Doren. Mark Van Doren was only 13 years old when he designed the logo as a stencil that he wanted to spray paint onto his skateboard. It was around this time that the company decided to shift their focus onto skateboarding shoes. They began to use the logo on the heel tab of the Style 95 shoe, which is one of the first skateboarding shoes that they produced. Both of these logos are still synonymous with the brand today.

Although not a logo, the other design feature that has been included on the vast majority of shoes that the company has produced since the 1970s is the ‘jazz stripe’. This started life as a doodle of Paul Van Doren, and is just a line with a couple of curves on it. It is often featured on the outside of the shoe, mostly in a different color to the actual shoe. The jazz stripe is just as much part of the brand as the logo, and you could use it to recognize a pair of shoes as being made by Vans even if you couldn’t immediately see the logo.

What Does ‘Off The Wall’ Mean?

‘Off The Wall’ was the name of a skateboarding trick that was very popular in California during the 1970s. Groups of skateboarders would visit houses that had been abandoned and use the empty pools to perform tricks. They would start these tricks by launching themselves off the walls of the pool. According to Eastern Surf, skateboarders would often find themselves on the outside of the rest of society during this period. The style of their skateboarding became a way that they could express themselves, and they also showed their creativity through art, music and fashion. This is something that Vans felt their brand encompassed and their shoes became very popular with the skateboarding community.

Sale Of The Business

The Van Doren family sold the business in 1988. A decision was made not to make any changes to the name or logo because it was a brand that was so well respected. Under the new owners, the company worked with skateboarder Steve Caballero to design his signature shoe which was called the Half Cab. According to the Vans website, this went on to become one of the most culturally significant shoes that has been released in the history of skateboarding. It also remains one of the most iconic designs that the company has made. The design does not feature the jazz stripe, but the Vans logo is present in the inside of the shoe.

Over the years, they began to make shoes and clothing that could be used for other sports such as BMX, snowboarding and surfing. These are all activities where people have the freedom to bring their own style to the sport. Being able to express yourself in the way that you want to is something that Vans have always stood for. The logo may not be as visible on items of clothing as it would be on shoes, but the ethos with which the products are made continues to be the same. This is something which has remained true, regardless of who has owned the company.

The company changed hands again in 2004 when it became part of the VF Corporation which is based in North Carolina. They also own other outdoor brands such as The North Face and Timberland. All of these brands retain their own unique identity and this is something that wanted to keep for Vans as well. This meant once again that change of ownership did not lead to a change in logo.

Recent Logo Changes

In 2016, Vans launched a campaign to make people aware that they no longer exclusively saw themselves as a skateboarding brand. This coincided with the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the company. This also meant that their ‘Off The Wall’ slogan did not just apply to the skateboarding trick anymore. However, it will always continue to stand for the freedom of expression that was captured by the skateboarders of the 1970s.

Doug Palladini told Adweek that Off The Wall now referred to a state of mind that anyone could relate to. For over 50 years, Vans have been a brand that skateboarders have loved, but they also have features that make the ideal choice for other uses as well. They are still primarily a sportswear brand, but people do wear their products as a fashion statement. There is an option on their website to design your own pair of shoes and have them made to your specifications.

A new logo was produced in order to celebrate fifty years of the company, and this was used on all products that were released in the anniversary year. This was the first time that an anniversary logo had been produced by the company, but there is nothing to say that it is not something which will happen again. The next major anniversary that is likely to be celebrated would be the 75th which would occur in 2041. If the logo follows the pattern that was started with the 50th anniversary, then it probably will not vary too much from the regular logos that are in constant use in terms of design.



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