Take A Crazy-Cool Tour Of The Vans Campus (Skate Tricks Included)!

[UPDATE: This story was originally published on August 14.]
In our eyes, Vans is like the Disneyland of the sneaker world. After all, who doesn't happily remember their first pair? The iconic kicks are synonymous with the Dogtown dudes (and countless other surf and skate stars), '80s cult-fave flicks (hello, Spicoli from Fast Times At Ridgemont High!), and, of course, cool comfort ideal for laid-back Saturdays.
So, when we found out Vans' HQ is just as hip as the shoes' spunky track record — and that the Cypress station is just a hop, skate, and a jump from L.A. — we needed to cruise on over. What did we find? Let's just say avant-garde art drips from the angular walls, good-lookin' ladies and gents work (and play) away, and there really isn't a frown to be found in the house. See it all for yourself right here with our virtual Vans voyage. After peeping these pics, we promise you'll be sporting your past and present pairs with a whole new skip in your step!
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Kathy Miranda, Public Relations Coordinator, Action Sports

What does your role at the company entail?
"A lot of my time is spent on the computer cultivating relationships with media and Vans affiliates. I also help promote our awesome video platform, Offthewall.tv. Several times a month, Vans throws events which promote our product — these can be as small as an in-store pop-up party with pizza and beers, or huge productions at our event space in Brooklyn, the House of Vans. My team and I take time out of the office to meet with media and help spread the word about our brand."

Tell us the story behind your first pair of Vans.
"My first pair of Vans, Navy Authentics, came to me at a time when I was into making my mark on things — tables, backpacks, shoes — it was somewhat of an addiction. I would write my initials, stars, and checkerboard patterns on everything, and my Vans were no exception! They became sort of a symbol of whatever I was into at the time, which was a storm of everything punk, Harajuku, and skater stuff. I know, it was an experimental time! One thing is for sure, while my DIY dresses, tagged-up backpacks, and neon striped tights were left behind, my Vans are still kickin'!"

Where's the most exotic place your Vans have traveled with you?
"The top of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Spain. They came with me as I jumped off the mountain parasailing with a friendly stranger I met at my hostel in Granada. It was an equally terrifying and liberating experience — good times!"

What inspires you most at your workplace?
"Anyone who can speak confidently and intelligently about any given subject, whether it's skateboarding, surfing, Google analytics, or Pantone color swatches. I'm down for any of those conversations!"
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The 104,000-square-foot warehouse may sport cubicles, but it's no Office Space environment — we're positive there's not a single disgruntled employee on the 300-person team!
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Kiley Davis, Design Intern

What does your role at the company entail?
"My role is always changing because I work across different categories including Snow, Classics, and Pro-Tec. I could be designing textile patterns for footwear one day, and picking out materials and colors for snowboard boots the next."

What's your most memorable moment working with the company?
"Our design off-site trip to the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs was an amazing experience. I got to spend time with such creative and inspiring people. The best part was taking the tram up to overlook the entire valley. It was so beautiful hiking up in the mountains."

What was your interview process like to snag the job?
"I was lucky enough to get connected with Vans through the Industry Open House hosted by my college, Laguna College of Art + Design."

What's your favorite activity to do while wearing your Vans?
"I love wearing them to festivals like Coachella and Outside Lands. They're perfect for keeping my feet safe in the crowds."

What's your all-time favorite style of Vans?
"I love my checkered slip-ons the most. They have a funky personality, but paired with the right outfit, they can still be very cute."
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Greg Savee, Product Development Specialist and Ryan Quinn, Surf Footwear Category Managers

Where's the most exotic place your Vans have traveled with you?
Quinn: "We went on a trip to South America that was pretty insane. My shoes took me to the deepest parts of Brazil, Peru, and Chile."

What inspires you most at the workplace?
Quinn: "The freedom we have allows us all to get creative. Everyone seems to work really well as a team by being open to all types of input. Having that type of attitude really helps the creative process thrive."
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The shoe slingers humbly asked its posse of artist pals to interpret the brand's tagline, "Off The Wall," and the collection's become a giant gallery on the walls of the central foyer. Pictured is skateboarder Geoff Rowley's rendition.
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The molds displayed are dubbed "Shoe Lasts," and they're not just there for viewing pleasure — all faux footsies are still in use for development and sample fitting.
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Nikki Scoggins, Direct to Consumer Marketing Manager

What does your role at the company entail?
"It's diverse. People often think that social media means, 'You do the Twitter!' It cracks me up. Yes, we do the Twitter, but there's much more to it, of course — global strategy, content curation, and creation. My team is responsible for the content on all of our dot-coms as well as our blogs. It's everything from style photos and DIY videos in our girls channel to event and athlete coverage on our surf channel. We handle all social media sites from Facebook to the @vans Instagram to YouTube, and everything in between. We also do the live music webcasts. I have to tell you, it's a blast to have the ability to build the variety of programming that we do in these communities. We get to make fun stuff!"

Tell us the story behind your first pair of Vans.
"I will preface this by saying that I will win the gross-out contest! My first pair of checkerboard slip-ons were my main squeeze for around five years. Everywhere, all the time, I was wearing them thangs. So, one day, I threw them into the trunk of my car while I went for a run. We're talking hours on a summer day that my shoes were marinating. After my run, I got into my car. I thought, 'Hmm. What is that smell?' I checked the bottoms of my running shoes. Nothing there. In my heart, I slowly came to grasp the truth. Getting out of the car, I circled around to the back and opened the trunk. Hours later as I regained consciousness, I realized I had been knocked the eff out by, shall we say, an aromatic turn of events. Love hurts. Wear socks, kids."

What's your favorite part about your work environment?
"I get to work with strong, business-minded folks who have a good balance in their lives. Further, there are no barriers between anyone from interns to the president. The diversity in what you can learn from each other is limited by your interest. We have a good thing going."

What's your most memorable moment working with the company?
"There's one per day, I swear. Explaining to security that the apparent derelict (with no shoes nor shirt and appears to arrived in town from planet Dorito) whom they will not let in and want to arrest at the venue is, in fact, a guest of honor at the event is always entertaining. On the flip side, one of the most beautiful moments I've had was photographing PJ Harvey during her set at Coachella 2011. It's not an opportunity that I'd ever considered having."

What's your favorite activity to do while wearing your Vans?
"Oh, you know. Yachting. Writing the next great American novel. Falling in love."
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Taka Hayashi, Designer, TH and Vault Line

Walk us through a typical day in your work shoes.
"I start out by driving 45 minutes to work, get coffee, check emails, work on new footwear and apparel sketches and concepts, get lunch, scan drawings into the computer, pick out materials and color for footwear, go over the designs with my product line manager, and turn in cads to get samples made."

Tell us the story behind your first pair of Vans.
"I was about 9 years old back in the mid '80s. My mom took me to the Vans store in Santa Monica, and I ordered my first customized Sk8-Hi’s in an all-over multi-colored checkerboard pattern. It was a cool experience!"

What's one sneaker trend you'd never be caught dead wearing?
"The puffy, glowing, high-tech style sneakers."
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What we love most about this sole business is that they have a soul, too. Vans runs an annual "Custom Culture" national high school art competition, where students can compete for the chance to win cash for their art programs by customizing pairs of sneaks. These slip-ons were the work of the talented top-five finalists from Mountain View High School in Boise, Idaho.
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(From left to right): Chase Weikal, Retail Marketing Coordinator; Michael Montevideo, Retail Marketing Coordinator; Shawn Knight, Art Director; Michael De Wit, Art Director; Tom Cooke, Director of Core Footwear

Tell us the story behind your first pair of Vans.
De Wit: "Growing up in a really small town in The Netherlands, it was practically impossible to get a pair of Vans. I convinced my mum to spend a whopping 120 guilders on a pair of vulcanized shoes from America, and I was so stoked to finally have a pair of proper BMX and skate shoes. However, that didn’t stop anyone in high school from laughing at my squeaky, newspaper-printed Authentics. I found out 20 years later that they used the Orange County Register for the print. My second pair of Vans were the Caballero Full Cabs that cost 210 guilders — I traded my savings and endless amount of chores for those."

What's your funniest moment working with the company?
De Wit: "When I was first interviewed for my current position, a huge earthquake shook the whole building. We didn't think much of it, and after we opened the door and everyone was freaking out and running around trying to find a safe place to hide…we simply finished the interview."

What's one sneaker trend you'd never be caught dead wearing?
De Wit: "High-heel sneakers."
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How's this for a company water cooler? The skate bowl serves many purposes. For one, designers and developers need a place to test their products on the ramp to determine exactly what features need to be adjusted. Also, it entices athletes to visit the office (and probably makes meetings more bearable for them with a post-skate session promised!). Most importantly, though, employees can take some time to skate to clear their minds and have some fun!
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Any employee who dares to battle the bowl must sign a waiver, as users have racked up quite a few injuries over the years!

After peeping his mad skills, Michael De Wit could (but obviously wouldn't) quit his day job to go pro.
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Ane Jens, Art Department Manager/Photo Editor

What does your role at the company entail?
"Everything photography! Shooting it, buying it, managing it — as well as assigning jobs to our arists, routing artwork for approval, and sharing visual assets with our international team. And nagging. I do a fair amount of nagging, ha!"

What's your favorite part about your work environment?
"It's so fun! I'm surrounded by creative people, and every so often I'll wear my roller skates to work. You can't beat that."

What's your most memorable moment working with the company?
"I remember when the Red Hot Chili Peppers played a surprise show at the Vans Skatepark at the Block of Orange. That was amazing, and I remember all the kids running through the mall to try and get in to see the show."
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Julia Froemel, Senior Marketing Manager, Classics/Vault/California

What does your role at the company entail?
"I oversee the promotion of everything related to Vans Classics. My job is to define marketing strategies for the U.S. that can be adapted by our global team. On a typical day, I work with our art director on new campaigns, plan and execute events, and collaborate with our product and sales teams and key accounts. My position also requires a lot of traveling. I worked for Vans in Europe for the last eight years and just moved here last December. Since my arrival, I've been to Mexico City, Montreal, NYC, London, Amsterdam, Nashville, Dallas, Austin, and Portland."

What's your most memorable moment working with the company?
"Five years ago back in Germany, Oli, the editor of Monster Skateboard Magazine, my friend and coworker, Steffie, and I came up with what we thought was a great idea over a couple of beers. We wanted to go on a media trip with the German and Austrian Vans skate teams to Odessa in the Ukraine, since it had never been done before. We thought it would be amazing to take the train all the way from Berlin to Odessa in an almost romantic way — like in the movies where they travel in comfortable luxury via Trans-Siberian Rail. The train turned out to be run-down and dirty, with sleeping compartments so small that you had to decide whether you or your bag was going to sleep inside. We spent 36 hours on that train. When we finally arrived, we found Odessa to be beautiful, though quite corrupt. Steffi and I had to pay a lot of cash to various police so we wouldn't get arrested while skating places with Communist memorials. The police would also randomly swing by our rented apartment and ask for cash without reason, threatening to arrest us. Everyone was scared, and after a week, we took a plane home to get the hell out of there … I think I even managed to expense the bribe money. Vans is a very cool company."

What's your favorite activity to do while wearing your Vans?
"I like heels for some occasions, but other than that I do almost everything in my Vans. I even hiked a high mountain in Switzerland in them. They have the waffle grip, you know …"

What's your all-time favorite style of Vans?
"It's the Authentic, for sure. My favorite pairs are a white Authentic from a collaboration with Wtaps in 2006 and one we did with the great French fashion brand A.P.C. I also own a pair of Sk8-Hi’s from the Marc Jacobs collaboration we did a couple of years ago that I love."
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(From top left to right): Ashley Moltz, Women's Accessories Category Manager; Chris Mascarenas, Apparel Graphic Designer; Daniel Hernandez, Mens/Boys Apparel Product Manager

Tell us the story behind your first pair of Vans.
Moltz: "I was in high school and they were a pair of mint and lavender checkerboard Slip-Ons. I was the rare East Coast girl who surfed and skateboarded. So, of course, I was going to be wearing Vans if I was skating!

Mascarenas: "My first pair of Vans that I recall were Chukka Boots ordered from Intensity Skates."

Hernandez: "In 1999, I was 14 years old and I first saw The Seedling, Thomas Campbell's surf film about logging. My best friend John and I were obsessed. All we did was beg our moms to drive us to Malibu, Cardiff, or San-O to surf. When we weren't doing that, we were watching that movie. My favorite surfer was, and still is, Joel Tudor. He rode for Vans, so I had to wear them, too. I went to the tiny store on Beach Boulevard with my mom to get my first pair of navy Authentics. She was psyched. At that time, kids were into the Osiris D3s and other huge, puffy, and not to mention expensive skate shoes, so she was happy I was into pairs that were less than $40."

What's your funniest/most memorable moment working with the company?
Moltz: "I had only been with Vans for two months when I won a raffle that flew me and a friend to the North Shore for the Triple Crown!"

Mascarenas: "A few weeks ago, I threw a fart bomb in the war room while four of the graphic design dudes were having a meeting. It blew up on the table and exploded on someone's face. The whole department stunk. People told me that if I was in middle school, I would have been expelled. Sorry dudes!"

What was your interview process like to snag the job?
Mascarenas: "I originally came in as a freelancer to work on The Vans x Dennis Hopper Project, which was an honor and privilege to work on. After the project was complete, I did everything that I could to stay around, and luckily I was able to establish a fan base and they hired me!"

Hernandez: "Gnarly. I was interviewing for the Management Trainee position fresh out of college. Basically, it was an internship on steroids. First, I had a group interview. Then an interview with the VP of HR, the VP of Footwear, then the VP of Apparel. I swear I got the job because I was the only person in the group interview that had some beat-to-shit Authentics on. Everyone else was either not wearing Vans, or had bought a fresh pair just for the interview. Mine were definitely on their last legs."
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This staffer's space is apparently spick-and-span because she's constantly on the road. Perhaps she was overseeing the Warped Tour?
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Inspiration boards are a dime a dozen on the beyond-creative campus, but this was the prettiest we spotted.
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Brandon Ball, Manager of Environmental Design, strikes a pose in his TH Vaults amidst the sky-lit gallery space.
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Sarah Crockett, Director of Consumer Marketing and April Blakely Vitkus, Director of Lifestyle Marketing

What's your favorite part about your work environment?
Crockett: "There are so many different personalities at Vans. The people are my favorite part. They're honest, open, and inspiring. My favorite moments in the office are when it’s Friday around 2 p.m., and you can feel the weekend coming. People crank up the music and start getting silly…my cheek muscles usually feel strained after leaving on a day like that."

What's your most memorable moment working with the company?
Crockett: "One of my favorite moments that I can look back on is when Kristen Stewart wore our black-and-white checkerboard Slip-Ons when her footprints were cemented at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. We got the heads up that she was planning on wearing them, so a group of 15 or so people were all gathered around a co-worker’s computer, and a loud cheer erupted when she stepped in the cement. It was like we were watching the World Cup and our team scored the winning point. Waffle soles are now showcased in such a historical Hollywood landmark…perfection."

Where's the most exotic place your Vans have traveled with you?
Blakely Vitkus: "My Vans have been everywhere from temples in Kyoto to vintage boutiques in the Marais, but my favorite memory was being on a business trip when I was 19 weeks pregnant with my son. The pace was grueling, as we covered an entire city by foot from sunrise to sunset each day. I walked through London, Milan, and Paris wearing black Authentics with a little bundle in my belly. I‘m grateful that Vans supported my tired, pregnant-lady feet throughout the extended walking trip!"

Crockett: "I was wearing my Vans on my honeymoon to South Africa back in 2008. They were an obvious choice when I was planning my foot wardrobe — what shoes could I bring that would be perfect for a safari, scuba diving, and sightseeing? Vans, obviously."

Tell us the story behind your first pair of Vans.
Vitkus: "I got my first pair of Vans, black Sk8-Hi’s, when I was 13 years old. I’d just discovered hardcore and had to have the same shoes that Henry Rollins from Black Flag wore. I wanted to raise as much hell in suburban Northern California as possible, and the Sk8-Hi’s seemed like a good start. Vans have been a staple in my wardrobe ever since."

What inspires you most at the workplace?
Crockett: "I have the pleasure of working in the same department as Steve and Kristy Van Doren (son and granddaughter of our founder, Paul Van Doren). Hearing stories from Steve about Vans back in the day and how his dad started the company is always so inspiring. It reminds us of why we are all here. Seeing the family’s presence in the building (Cheryl Van Doren, Steve’s sister, and Paul’s daughter is the head of HR) is pretty amazing. It started as a family business, and nearly 50 years later, the clan is still part of the day-to-day…it doesn’t get more inspiring than that."
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You won't catch anyone in heels in these parts!
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Laura Doherty, Public Relations Manager

What does your role at the company entail?
"I handle the promotion of all Vans lifestyle and fashion footwear and apparel categories to the media. I even work on film placements. There is never a dull moment in my day, whether it’s launching a new collection or getting samples to New York for next-day delivery, there's always something to do! I also get to visit New York quite a bit for events and media showroom appointments."

Tell us the story behind your first pair of Vans.
"I attended a private elementary school and had to wear black-to-the-floor shoes with my uniform. There wasn’t much room for expressing yourself through your clothes. Everyone wore the same shoes, and you’d have to have a specific label to be cool. But, I wore my Vans. I was the only one and felt so special because I was different. The splash of red on the heel tab made me feel like a rebel, too, since I was always getting chased by a nun to color it in, ha!"

What's your most memorable moment working with the company?
"Last year, Vans brought back a tradition of hosting a summer Vans family picnic. I brought my 5-year-old nephew to zip line, jump in bounce houses, and race down slides. I was running around like a kid with him. There was such an amazing feeling of family there. After he went home, my sister called to tell me that he was pretending to be a Vans 'worker.' He had that much fun with my company that he was pretending to be one of us. Priceless."

Where's the most exotic place your Vans have traveled with you?
"Guanajuato, Mexico, with the love of my life. It was so romantic to walk the cobblestone streets both wearing our favorite Vans."
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Michelle Corona, Public Relations Assistant

Tell us the story behind your first pair of Vans.
"I remember being devastated about having to transfer schools the week before starting third grade, so my mom took me to the mall and let me pick out any pair of new shoes I wanted. All of my brothers were already religiously rocking Vans and convinced me to get a cute pair of navy Authentics. They've been a wardrobe staple ever since.

What's your favorite part about your work environment?
"It's pretty awesome to be in a place that prides itself on its history and past — and you can’t beat being able to take a midday break and head to the skate bowl to catch some of our athletes and co-workers all shredding together!"

What's your all-time favorite style of Vans?
"I loved working on a DIY Creeper Authentics video for the Vans Girls Tumblr. I took a pair of flip-flop soles, stacked them to make platforms, then got to customizing. It took two hours, tons of glue and lots of leopard duct tape, but it's probably my most successful and creative DIY to date."
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Especially after interviewing all of his employees, boss-man Steve Van Doren is one of the most respected men we've had the privilege of meeting. His father, Paul Van Doren, founded Vans in 1966 (the company sold for $396 mill to VF Corporation in 2004), and Steve and his daughter, Kristy, now work in the marketing department — running all events (he still rocks out at the Warped Tour). And, you can thank him for that unforgettable Sean Penn Fast Times at Ridgemont High-style moment.
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