Logos are of utmost importance in the sneaker industry. While companies these days often hire external designers to craft them a statement piece to hit the market, some of the most enduring footwear logos and design features came from much simpler beginnings. In the case of Vans, two of their most distinguishable elements, the Jazz Stripe and the Flying V logo, are direct products of family members goofing around.
Images with thanks to Vans
In 1966, the then family-owned Van Doren Rubber Company opened their first factory and store at 704 East Broadway in Anaheim, California. Their business model differed dramatically from competitors. They’d be slinging their American-built, vulcanised shoes direct to the public. Eventually, these customers would even be able to bring in their own uppers! At the time, this business model was thought to be straight-up crazy. But who’s questioning it now? Vans are currently estimated to be worth $3 billion, and they tell a story that is indicative of the Great American Dream.
From humble beginnings, Vans co-founder Paul Van Doren started his career in the footwear industry working at Randy’s, where his mother had been employed in his youth. Paul’s mum even landed him his first job sweeping floors in the factory. Some 20 years later, he went on to become Vice President of Randy’s. Talk about climbing the ranks!
Following that meteoric rise, Paul decided to walk away from Randy’s, which was losing money month-to-month. In 1996, together with brother Jim Van Doren, long-time friend Gorden Lee, and Serge D'Elia who was importing material from Japan to the US, the Van Doren Rubber Company was born.
As a brand, Vans have always been synonymous with family values, which makes the origin story of their Flying V logo all the more special. At the age of 13, Mark Van Doren, the son of then-president and co-owner James Van Doren, took a stencil and spray can to his skateboard and slapped on a ‘Flying V’ logo that would initially be used on the Style 95 – now better known as the Era. The logo went on to become the branding stamped onto lower-tier Vans models after the company moved their manufacturing off-shore. In 2019, the logo has enjoyed a nostalgic resurgence on some monochromatic Sid Nis that can be found on SneakerHub right now!
The Jazz Stripe, which has become synonymous with the sides of the Old Skool, has similar roots. As Steven Van Doren explained in an interview with Sneaker Freaker, the original Jazz Stripe was a mere doodle by his father Paul. In fact, it was described as something that Paul did off the cuff, probably while talking on the phone! He always kept a note pad next to his desk and, one day, he just scribbled it down.
Despite the success of the Jazz Stripe, all trends eventually take a back seat. In the late 90s, when Geoff Rowley joined the Vans team, the funky line wasn’t being featured on any product in the catalogues. By the time 1999 rolled around, and he released his first shoe with Vans, Geoff begged to use the Jazz Stripe. As one of the only skateboarders in the building, he got his way. The omnipresent side stripe is now an undeniable part of Vans’ DNA.
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