Simplicity has its a place in the world of fashion, even if it sometimes takes a little nudge to get the public to embrace the idea. Once a famous sports figure, musician or actor proudly displays a particular style, the masses will flock towards it. Such was the case with simple pair of canvas shoes called Vans.

Vans were first introduced to the public way back in 1966, the vision of designer Paul Van Doren who convinced a few partners to help him open a small store in Anaheim, California. They were an unassuming product, made of quality materials and offering both comfort and durability. Sales remained unimpressive, however, until they were embraced by the skateboarding community, who found them to be the perfect shoe to thrash about in. And, as skateboarding popularity exploded in the 70s, so did the popularity of Vans.

But they still hadn’t quite found the mainstream success they yearned for until the release of the 1982 film, Fast Times at Ridgemont High featuring a lovable underachiever named Jeff Spicoli (played by a young Sean Penn). He propelled the popularity of the little shoe company farther than any commercial could have ever dreamed.

Spicoli prominently displayed his checkerboard-design Vans throughout the movie, even whacking himself in the head with them on occasion. The movie was a hit, the character became a counter-culture hero and fans everywhere wanted to know where they could get the same pair of checkered shoes that Spicoli wore in the film.

Thanks to a multitude of creative designs, including a two-toned red and blue version created specifically for the skateboard market, Vans found their way to the feet of millions of customers, many of which had never set foot on a skateboard, but still loved the comfort factor.

Although available with laces, most prefer the slip-on variety, worn sans socks to achieve the desired laid-back California look. And while Jeff Spicoli may have brought the fashionable footwear to the attention of millions, they still might have only been short-lived fad were it not for the fact that they were always a wonderfully comfortable shoe.

They just needed a little star power to help consumers recognize the “cool” factor. Today, long after their Hollywood introduction, they remain enormously popular, the epitome of simplicity in a shoe that remains much the same in regard to construction, paired with high-tech designs that continue to evolve with their customer’s tastes.

If you ever had a pair of Vans in your closet, we’d love to hear your thoughts about this famous footwear in our comments section below.

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