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While staying grounded, Vans still flying high

When Paul Van Doren teamed with his brother Jim and friends Serge D'Elia and Gordon Lee to form the Van Doren Rubber Company in 1966, the foursome became just the fourth manufacturer of vulcanized rubber in the United States.

But while their footprint would only become deeper in the American landscape, it would do so off the ground as a staple of the nation's skateboarding culture.

The company started humbly enough, with empty boxes on shoe racks representing the stock they didn't yet have! As the first 16 customers browsed the shelves on that opening day, the Van Doren gang would have to manufacture their selections that day. Blue boxes were for men's, green for women's, and red for kids. The shoe models didn't even have names, though model no. 44 was the authentic deck shoe that remains popular, and models 45 and 46 were the canvas and leather boat shoes that also have been popular Vans styles ever since.

Custom-manufacturing shoes for people had its advantages, as Vans found itself making shoes out of customer-chosen bolts of cloth, including uniforms from local Catholic schools.

The company made its first foray into the skating world when it answered local skaters' call for a customized version of their offerings. Vans added strategic padding to protect skaters against wayward boards and released the Skate Hi on March 18, 1976.

Vans ran into some trouble in the early 1980s when it ventured into other athletic areas, straying from what it had done so well to that point. Since righting the ship in 1987, Vans has remained true to its core.

Foot Locker offers a connection to those roots with some of Vans' popular shoe models. That includes the Era in numerous colorways, and that high-top look with the OTW Alomar. The Era, once known as model 95, was designed by skating icons Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta. The OTW Alomar, giving a nod to the “Off The Wall” slogan Vans made famous, was inspired by a chukka-style boot, crossing skate style with street fashion.

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