The entrepreneur’s death was confirmed via a statement shared on the Vans social media pages, in which Van Doren was referred to as “an innovator” and someone known for his “bold experiments in product design, distribution and marketing”.
“It is with a heavy heart that Vans announces the passing of our co-founder, Paul Van Doren,” the statement said. “Paul was not just an entrepreneur; he was an innovator. The Van Doren Rubber Company was the culmination of a lifetime of experimentation and hard work in the shoe industry.
“Paul’s bold experiments in product design, distribution and marketing, along with his knack for numbers and efficiency turned a family shoe business into a globally recognized brand.”
The statement concluded: “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. Thank you for everything, Paul. You will be sorely missed.”
A cause of death has not yet been revealed.
Born on June 12, 1930, in Boston, Massachusetts, Van Doren founded the Van Doren Rubber Company in early 1966 with brother Jim Van Doren and partners Gordon Lee and Serge Delia.
The canvas boat shoes with vulcanised rubber outsoles they created went on to become an important part of the casual dress code for skateboarders, surfers, snowboarders.
Immortalised in the 2001 documentary Dogtown And Z-Boys, the biggest pop culture moment for Van Doren’s creation came when they were featured in 1982’s Fast Times At Ridgemont High, based on a San Diego high school exposé for Rolling Stone magazine by future director Cameron Crowe.
In the book Sneaker Freaker: The Ultimate Sneaker Book, Steve Van Doren said that the company sent a box to the film’s producers and were surprised when Sean Penn’s character, surfer Jeff Spicoli, wore Vans in the movie and were featured on the cover of the Fast Times soundtrack.
Vans sold “millions” of the checkerboard model worn by Penn. “We had no idea” the film would be such a boon for the company, Steve Van Doren said. The Fast Times shoe design was credited to Jim Van Doren, who died in 2011 at 72
Paul Van Doren came out of semi-retirement to save the company in the 1980s after it got itself into debt following an expansion into producing shoes for basketball and breakdancing. Paul took over from brother Jim in 1987, and thanks to his payroll and product line austerity Vans emerged debt-free.
In 1988, Paul Van Doren sold the company for $75million. It went public in 1991. Soon after Vans bought the Triple Crown of Surfing, one of the sport’s most revered contests, and launched the Triple Crown of Skateboarding.
Vans also sponsored the Warped Tour, which they later purchased and turned into the Vans Warped Tour, which has seen the likes of Limp Bizkit, Machine Gun Kelly, A Day To Remember, Linkin Park and many others perform on the bill.
Vans is now owned by VF, which also has skateboarding brand Supreme and climbing apparel firm The North Face in its portfolio.