The Vans logo history and meaning: A symbol of skateboarding culture

Vans Logo

The Vans logo is more than just a bold wordmark in the athletic apparel world, it’s a cultural icon. A symbol of confidence and innovation, this memorable design has evolved over the years, while still maintaining a unique and compelling personality. Here’s your guide to Vans logo history. 

Compared to many well-known sneaker and activewear companies, Vans hasn’t made many changes to its visual identity over the years. The original logo created for the company is still used on some of the organization’s branding assets and products today. 

However, the company has experimented with a variety of symbols and color palettes, in the quest for the ultimate brand identity. Today, we’re going to walk you through the evolution of the Vans logo over the decades, and discuss the meaning behind the iconic banner. 

The Vans logo: Introducing the Vans brand

Let’s start our exploration into Vans logo history with an introduction to the popular brand. Vans is an American manufacturer, best-known for producing products specifically for the skateboarding subculture. It produces shoes, skateboards, accessories, and clothing for men, women, and children. 

Owned by the VF Corporation, Vans has become a worldwide brand over the years. It even sponsors a number of surf, snowboarding, motocross, and BMX teams. This has helped the company build its marketing presence with endorsements from some of the biggest names in extreme sports. 

Originally, Vans was founded in 1966, as the “Van Doren Rubber Company”. The name was based on the founding brothers, Paul, and James Van Doran. The business primarily focused on shows, sold directly to the public as “deck shoes” for skateboarding. 

Over the years, Vans developed its brand identity, positioning itself as a leader in the alternative sports landscape. It even embraced the motto “Off the Wall” in 1976, which appears on the Vans logo, and various Vans products today. 

By the early 90s, Vans had developed a cult following among fans, and desire for its shoes grew, due to low supply numbers. Eventually, the organization expanded internationally, and began releasing new products, such as snowboard shoes and accessories. 

What does Vans stand for?

The name Vans is a shortened version of the company’s original moniker: “The Van Doren Rubber Company”, based on the names of two of the organization’s founders. Vans shortened this name in 1991, to reflect the popular nickname among customers. 

Vans logo history: The evolution of the Vans symbol

Since launching in 1966, Vans has unveiled a few different variations of its logo, though the core elements of its brand identity have remained consistent. The Vans wordmark, first designed by Mark Van Doren, is very similar in style to the Vans symbol we know today. 

Vans Logo

1966

The original Vans logo was created by the 13-year-old son of co-founder James Van Doren, Mark. The design was created as a stencil, intended to be spray painted onto skateboards. James recognized the value of the design, and placed it on the heel of his “Style 95” Vans Sneaker. 

The original logo still appears on the backs of some Vans sneakers today, as well as in various marketing materials. It includes the inscription “Vans”, with an elongated line reaching from the right arm of the V, all the way across the top of the other letters. 

The other letters in the wordmark were depicted in block, capital letters, with slightly curved edges, giving the image a more “handmade” feel. 

Vans Logo

2016

In 2016, Vans introduced an updated version of its logo, featuring the “Off the Wall” slogan the company embraced during 1976. The term “off the wall” was a common slang phrase among skateboarders at the time. 

This refined image maintained a lot of the original aspects of the first Vans logo. The V still has an elongated arm stretching over the top of the other letters in the company’s name. However, the letters have been straightened and sharpened, to give the image a more sophisticated look. 

The color palette was also updated, with the “Vans” inscription either appearing in a bright red shade on a white background, or in white on a red background. Underneath the main emblem, we see the company’s slogan, which features in many of the brand’s advertising campaigns. 

Vans Logo

The Vans “Off the Wall” logo

Alongside the standardized version of its logo shown above, Vans also introduced an “Off the Wall” symbol, based on the original design created in 1966. This symbol was unveiled in 1976, and featured the standard “Vans” inscription, with the words “Off the wall” in curved lettering below. 

The inscription appears on a red and white background, shaped to look like a skateboard. Vans still produces stickers and signage that use this design today. 

Vans logo meaning: Is the “V” in Vans a square root?

So, what does the Vans logo mean?

In simple terms, it’s just a unique wordmark, based on the company’s name, with an added slogan. The “V” in the “Vans” inscription does look a little like a square root symbol, but it doesn’t really have anything to do with mathematics. 

The elongated “V” line was intended to give the emblem an edgier, more unique appearance, adding visual interest to an otherwise simple wordmark. The line creates a roof covering all of the other letters in the Vans name, giving the symbol a sense of strength and stability. 

The “Off the Wall” slogan, simply provides an insight into Vans’ history, and its ties with skateboarding culture. The term was often used by skateboarders in the past to describe amazing tricks performed on vertical surfaces. 

The Vans logo: Colors and fonts

The Vans logo might seem simple, but it has become a powerful icon of skateboarding culture. The bold inscription, with its powerful, blocky letters, showcases the strength and confidence of the brand. The elongated line stemming from the “V” gives the brand a creative appearance. 

Even the color palette used for the Vans logo, which often includes a combination of red, white, and black, gives the company an edgy, contemporary appearance. The Vans symbol successfully conveys the passion of the brand, and its link to its unique niche.

What color is the Vans logo?

There are numerous variations of the Vans logo color palette in use throughout the world today. Most of the signage used for Vans stores simply uses a black and white color palette. Additionally, the “Vans” mark included on clothing and shoes can take on a range of colors.

However, the official logo colors for the central Vans logo consist of a combination of red, white and black. Black and white symbolize sophistication, strength, and excellence for the skateboarding company. Alternatively, red is the color of passion and confidence.

Neon Red
Hex color: #ff1818
RGB: 255 24 24
CMYK: 0 91 91 0
Pantone: PMS 172 C

Raisin Black
Hex color: #262529
RGB: 38 37 41
CMYK: 7 10 0 84
Pantone: PMS Neutral Black C

What font does the Vans logo use?

Initially, the Vans logo font was a custom typeface, drawn by the son of one of the company’s founders. The letters of this wordmark featured slightly curved edges, and less uniformity than the Vans banner we know today. 

When Vans officially “updated” its logo, it refined some of the features of its inscription, and brought the characters closer together. The design is similar to a modified version of the popular font Helvetica, with a unique letter “V”. 

The Vans brand mark: A cultural icon

Looking back through Vans logo history, we can see the company’s current symbol isn’t just a bold wordmark; it’s a symbol of heritage and culture. The design hasn’t changed much since it was created by Mark Van Doren for the original brand. 

However, Vans has made a couple of updates to its color palette, and the structure of the letters in its wordmark over the years, to ensure it can maintain a modern aesthetic. 

Today, the Vans logo shows how a simple, but engaging wordmark can unify an entire subculture around a brand, and showcase the unique identity of a company. 

Fabrik: A branding agency for our times.

Stephen Peate
Creative director
Stephen Peate
Creative director
As Fabrik’s creative director, Stephen oversees complex branding programmes. He advises our clients on their tone of voice, creates logos and visual identities and crafts names for companies, products and services. Writing for Brand Fabrik Stephen reflects his love for logo design and visual identity.

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