Paul Van Doren, who co-founded the Vans shoe brand, best known for its success with skateboarders, died at the age of 90, according to the parent company.
“It’s with a heavy heart that Vans announces the passing of our co-founder, Paul Van Doren,” Vans said Friday in a Twitter post. “Paul was not just an entrepreneur; he was an innovator. We send our love and strength to the Van Doren family and the countless Vans Family members who have brought Paul’s legacy to life.”
The company did not state the cause of his death.
Paul Van Doren established Vans, originally called the Van Doren Rubber Company, in early 1966 as a store in Anaheim, Calif., with his brother, Jim Van Doren, and partners Gordon Lee and Serge Delia.
At the time, the shoes cost $2.49 a pair.
Prior to founding his own company, Paul Van Doren, a native of Boston, worked for another company that vulcanized rubber for sneakers, Randy’s, which sent him and his brother and Lee to help turn around an underperforming factory in Garden Grove, Calif., Paul Van Doren’s son, Steve Van Doren, said in the book, Sneaker Freaker: The Ultimate Sneaker Book. They ended up establishing Vans in neighboring Anaheim.
Vans started as a sneaker company that gained popularity through the Southern California skate culture, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Though popularised by skateboarders in the 1970s, the casual slip-on sneakers with vulcanised rubber outsoles were also worn by surfers and snowboarders. To highlight the shoes’ use of vertical skateboarding moves, Vans added the words “off the wall” and a spear-shaped skateboard deck to its name in the 1970s.
In the 1980s, the corporation expanded its retail outlets throughout California and started manufacturing sneakers for basketball and breakdancing, but the move resulted in millions of dollars in debt and a three-year bankruptcy reorganisation. Paul Van Doren returned to work from semi-retirement to save the firm, which was sold for $75 million in 1988 after emerging debt-free.
VF footwear company now owns Vans with shoes sold in 97 countries, including 2,000 retailers, according to VF.