#44 or #95 aren’t the most commercial numbers, but nor was Vans aspiring to that. Paul Van Doren had opened a store near the beach and started producing vulcanized sneakers in his back store which sold for just 2.49€. It was 1966. They sold 12 their first day. The key was that the sneakers could be customized with the material of your choice, with the only condition that it be water resistant, a necessary attribute for the vulcanizing process of the sole, which gave the shoe such a distinct aspect.
But in Anaheim California there were more than just tanorexics. The price attracted another type of crowd. Stacy Peralta and Tony Alva needed sneakers that could handle their latest creation, a surfboard on wheels. They had invented skateboarding. And their sneakers, for being accessible, durable and cheap, were Vans.
Paul Van Doren saw an opportunity and started designing exclusive sneakers for the new sport. He sought advice and made the sole more flexible, added more padding, and made the vulcanized sole even more durable.
It didn’t take long for the skate culture to adopt Vans. The sneaker named #44 was later called Authentic, #95 became Era, and all the models got checkered. Those black and white squares had appeared years before during a Vans design contest, but first appeared on the sole and then later on the upper. The checker seemed wiser than other alternatives they were actually considering, such as unicorns and hearts. Soon the colourway became synonyms with Vans, along with the skateboarding culture. Sean Penn chose the Vans slip on (a cordless Authentic) to interpret a crazy surfer in the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Just what Vans needed to leave its mark as the brand of a new subculture.
You can take home this illustration when you buy any of our Vans. Just enter the SZ9 code in our shopping cart. Follow the rest of our sneakeroots series, in collaboration with the seize9 blog, who brings you the best sneaker stories (in Spanish!).