FROM DIY TO THE RED CARPET
In 1944, Paul Van Doren dropped out of eighth grade. Like most fourteen-year-olds, he didn’t particularly like going to school. But unlike most teens, he was interested in–and had a knack for–gambling at horse races. His disapproving mother ordered him to instead find legitimate work at a shoe manufacturing company, Randy’s, in his native city of Boston.
Paul eventually worked his way up from sweeping floors and making shoes to a role as the Executive Vice President for Randy’s. In 1965, the company sent him to California to turn around a failing Randy’s branch. Paul moved, along with his brother Jim and their families, to Anaheim. Not only did the brothers save the factory, it went on to function better than the Massachusetts location—in just eight months to boot. Three months later, Paul decided he wanted to start his own shoe brand.
On March 16, 1966, at 704 East Broadway in Anaheim, California, the Van Doren brothers joined forces with Gordon Lee and Serge D’Elia to open the first VANS store (then called the Van Doren Rubber Company), where they both manufactured shoes and sold them directly to the public. On that first morning, twelve customers purchased VANS #44 deck shoes, which are now known as the “Authentic.” With the success of their business, a second VANS shop opened in Santa Monica within a year. The #44 deck shoe became popular with the Santa Monica High School (SAMOHI) surf and skate culture.