Paul Van Doren, a founder of Vans, the Southern California sneaker company that became synonymous with skateboarding almost by chance and then grew into a multibillion-dollar business, died on May 6 in Fullerton, Calif. He was 90.
His death, at the home of one of his children, was confirmed by a representative for VF Corporation, which now owns Vans. He lived in Las Vegas.
Mr. Van Doren founded the Van Doren Rubber Company in 1966 with the investor Serge D’Elia and soon brought on his younger brother James and Gordon Lee, a colleague from his years working for another sneaker manufacturer.
The idea was straightforward: sell high-quality but inexpensive sneakers from a store adjacent to a factory in Anaheim. The company handled production on-site, making it easy to fill orders of different sizes and allowing buyers to customize their shoes in a rainbow of colors and patterns.
Los Angeles magazine this year. “And here’s a company listening to them, backing them and making shoes for them.”
Vans provided Mr. Alva and Mr. Peralta with free shoes and sponsored them as part of a team of professional skateboarders, an arrangement that became a model in the skateboard shoe business.
The company went on to develop new styles, like the Old Skool, which has leather panels on the toe and heel for increased durability; the Sk8-Hi, an Old Skool with a padded high-top collar to protect ankles from errant boards; and a laceless canvas slip-on equipped with the signature Vans sole.
By the early 1980s the shoes were available in about 70 Vans stores, mostly in Southern California, and in outlets around the country. The shoes had earned a following among skateboarders, surfers and BMX bicyclists but were not widely known outside of those core markets.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”