In the mid-twentieth century, surfers on the West Coast of the United States took to the relatively new sport of skateboarding when the waves were flat. Some of these early adopters rode barefoot, as they did when they surfed, but many preferred shoes with sturdy, flexible, vulcanized rubber soles, which provided traction but also allowed the rider to feel the deck. By the late 1960s, the popularity of skateboarding had inspired manufacturers to adapt the low-cut skippy, an emblem of California surfer culture, into purpose-built skate shoes. Founded by the Van Doren brothers and their partners in 1966, Anaheim-based shoe company Vans was the first brand dedicated to skate shoes. To this day, Vans remains synonymous with skateboarding culture. As a passion for skateboarding spread across the country, particularly among suburban youth, shoes originally built for other sports were adopted by skaters, and other skate-focused brands began to design shoes with both functionality and style in mind.
Vans / Sk8-Hi, 2014 / Image courtesy Vans