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'It said something about you to wear Vans': Skater Cindy Whitehead looks back on 50 years of Vans




Female skateboarder Cindy Whitehead poses with some of her favorite Vans — including the pink pair she wore when she skated down the 405 Freeway during Carmageddon II.
Female skateboarder Cindy Whitehead poses with some of her favorite Vans — including the pink pair she wore when she skated down the 405 Freeway during Carmageddon II.
Francine Rios

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On this day 50 years ago, a legendary Southern California brand was born.

The Van Doren Rubber Company opened up shop in Anaheim on March 16, 1966. The store offered rubber-soled canvas deck shoes that were manufactured on the premises overnight to be picked up the next day.

Fast-forward, and Vans hit $2 billion in annual sales in 2015. The incredible success of Vans came in no small part from Southern California skaters. 

Cindy Whitehead was one of the few women in the early skateboarding scene. Now, she's a sports fashion stylist and an avid Vans collector. 

Female skateboarder Cindy Whitehead poses in her Vans at KPCC on Wednesday, March 16, 2016.
Female skateboarder Cindy Whitehead poses in her Vans at KPCC on Wednesday, March 16, 2016.
Francine Rios

Whitehead dropped by Take Two to share more about the iconic brand... and, oh yeah — that one time she skated down the 405 Freeway in her bright pink Vans.

Interview Highlights

About the first pair of Vans she ever had:

"My very first Vans were the two-tones, so they were blue and red, and I loved them. I think it was the first year they came out, I think it was '76 and I got them at the end of '76/'77. Those were pretty big with skaters, so I got those pretty quickly."

On why Vans were so popular with skateboarders:

"They were super grippy, the soles were great with that waffle sort of sole that they have on them. And they looked good, and they weren't like what everybody else was wearing. They weren't like the Nikes or the other shoes that were out there. They set us apart, they were different. They kind of were skate — and they still are — skate, surf culture, Southern California. And it said something about you to wear Vans."

What it was like to be one of the few girls skating in the 1970s:

"It was great. I wish there was more girls skating — there were a few, we rarely saw each other, they were all at different skate parks — but, you know, you become one of the guys, guys treat you with respect. You skate with respect and you get respect. It was a really good scene back then, I really enjoyed it. I miss those days. But now there's a lot of girls coming up, and that's even more fun."

On skating the 405 Freeway during Carmageddon II — in her hot pink Vans:

"The freeway was closed, but all entrances were blocked with police stationed at every single one, and snuck on the freeway, got my pink Vans very dirty and greasy. I still have them. They haven't been worn much since. They're kind of iconic to me. I'm going to keep them forever."

Skater Cindy Whitehead on the 405 Freeway during Carmageddon II.
Skater Cindy Whitehead on the 405 Freeway during Carmageddon II.
Ian Logan Photography
Skateboarder Cindy Whitehead breezes down the 405 Freeway during Carmageddon II.
Skateboarder Cindy Whitehead breezes down the 405 Freeway during Carmageddon II.
Ian Logan Photography

To listen to the full interview with Cindy Whitehead, click on the blue audio player above.