Founded in 1966 in Anaheim, California, and still family-operated, Vans has grown to represent more than a mere shoe company. We had a chance to tour their headquarters recently, and were treated to a glimpse at the brand’s rich history—which includes Venice’s infamous and revolution-sparking Z-Boys, Sean Penn’s Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the Vans Warped Tour, and countless other legendary collaborators and zeitgeist-shifting moments. Here’s a look inside one of America’s finest surf/skate/counterculture institutions:
Visitor’s badge: check. Homage to Vans founder Paul Van Doren on the way in: double check.
Left: Vans’ mission statement. (You can’t quite tell here, but this resided on a two-story-tall installation.)
Right: A recent winning design from the Vans Custom Culture competition—in which high-school art students from every state receive pure-white Vans as blank canvases for their creativity. Winning designs are manufactured and sold nationwide—and earn money to support their school’s art program.
Left: Big shoes to fill. No, founder Paul was not 30 feet tall—but he did know how to make customers laugh with unique store visuals.
Right: Cool installations tracing the brand’s history, decade by decade, line the halls.
One giant, vaulted-ceiling room at Vans HQ is devoted entirely to one-of-a-kind artworks by the brand’s favorite artists. Each work answers the question: “What does ‘Off the Wall’ mean to you?” This piece by graffiti artist Neck Face might not be attractive in the traditional sense—but we liked what he had to say in the placard beside it.
Left: The back room is a huge warehouse / skate park. We were told blind skateboarder Tommy Carroll was a guest here just days prior, and spent hours skating and sweating in the bowl. He’ll be back for the Vans Pool Party, a pro contest, on May 11.
Right: Past visitors’ shoes dangling from the rafters above.
Left: A display devoted to Vans’ recent Metallica collaboration.
Right: A sketch on a random wall of Tony Trujillo—a pro skater and lover of loud music.
Below: Worlds collide when Tony, his wife Ashley, and Metallica bass player Robert Trujillo meet up, jam, and form the Trujillo Trio. We highly recommend watching this—if nothing else, to marvel at Mrs. Trujillo absolutely shred on drums:
Today, Vans has expanded beyond shoes to produce some truly killer clothing and accessories—from backpacks to board shorts and everything in between. Click the images above or the link below to shop the current collection.