Sometime Back in the mid 90’s I was hired by Vans to help kick start their once dominant position in action sports and since I was there also create an entire snowboard boot program, all of which was expected to be accomplished on a ridiculously small budget. So I assembled a small group of people consisting of an 18 year old ESP skater named RP Bess and the talent of a small creative agency known at the time as MBC. At first I had to be all the team mangers, Skate, Surf, BMX, Motocross, and just a small handful of Bands at that point. RP graduated high school and immediately took over the skate program and whatever tasks I could throw at him & he did it with gusto. MBC at that time was the team of Bill Bryant, Simon Cudby, Drew Kuriger, & I believe back then McGoo was subcontracted as copy writer/creative guy. We all sat down, devised and accomplished a masterful plan to set this publicly traded companies core sports back on track & all for $53,000.00. Once this was set into motion I set out to assemble a snowboard boot team armed with only promises and smiles. Then proceeded to design and develop a complete line of boots in attempt to accommodate men, woman, children, different riding conditions, styles and whatever else we could think of. The first Vans boots were some old burton leftover shells with some sort of Airwalk knockoff liners we found in a Korean factory. We put some logos on 200 pair and got them out to the few riders we had and anyone else who wanted them. Very very few pair ever hit a stores shelf. With the help and at that point Vans VP, Bill Mann (Airwalk Founder) we somehow came up with a pretty amazing line of boots. I hit up MBC to make up a trade show booth for a couple grand and we headed to Vegas for the one & only chance to sell your snow product, SIA. Six months later when all orders had been filled, new boots were moving off the shelves & Vans sat #2 behind Burton in their very first season. A lot of money was made, comparatively I saw very little of it and was really beat down from the rigors of trying to please share holders and many others who just didn’t get what these sports/lifestyles were all about. So before I hurt someone or myself I decided to leave for a much quieter lifestyle in Carlsbad.
I feel real good about all of it as I think our kick start fired Vans right up! They remembered who their customer was and jumped into the Triple Crown event series, Warped Tour & all with huge dollars. Which my small crew and I went back and capitalized on too, but that’s a whole other post.
Very little of our time is in the book and not much of the original Orange, Ca. factory is either and that’s a damn shame. It was so amazing to walk out back at any given time and watch shoes being made.
The book does give much deserved credit to Steve Van Doren, when I was there the lords of the shareholders had him running parking lot sales & carnival type bullshit. That Guys giant heart is in the sports, making sure everyone’s really happy, full of food and loving Vans.
Check it out, 43 years of business is pretty impressive no matter how you slice it.

LINK: 95-96 first year boot crap

4 Responses

  1. Thats cool to know that you helped start the boot program. I’ve been riding them since they first got Joey Mcguire on the team. He would give me a pair when he’d get the big old boxs of gear. Now i test boots for them. It took awile but their getting it back in order Jamie Lynns back on the team and building a sweet Panhead right now. His first boot is still one of the best boot made.

  2. Ha! I can’t believe they let us call that boot the Lemming. Meeting the Switch guys up in SF was cool. Building the booth was fun. The whole thing was enjoyable to me since I didn’t have to put up with any of the shareholder crap. Remember those douches telling us “Vans is a Women’s shoe company now…” You changed that Kim.

  3. Good bit of history there. Thanks for sharing that.

    I used to order Vans out of the skateboard mags or even BMXA in the 70’s .. you’d fill out what colors you’d want and mail it in. Month or more later you’d get your custom shoes.

  4. Toecutter welcome, I don’t have too awful many horns I can toot in my life but I can genuinely say I didn’t “help” start that program I did start it and it was my baby for two & half seasons. I am dead serious when I say the day I started work in the office there was No one & I mean no one in that organization who knew anything about action sports.
    Bill is right Vans was really close to dumping their roots to pursue the womens white canvas KEDS market full time.
    Steve Van Doren knew what was up but like I said has was selling leftovers in the parking lot on the weekends & actually quit twice during my time there.
    I’m glad Jamie is back on the scene he’s a solid guy and I’ve always enjoyed his outlook on things. Plus we could talk BMX & Moto which was refreshing.

    Bill: thanks & we did have some fun on that project.
    I found the Vegas Porn style cards the other day.
    How’d we get away with that?

    Thanks Troy, Must’ve been 82-83, I ordered blue and yellow too match GT colors they showed up 8 months later .

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