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Vans Checkerboards have without a doubt become one of the most popular designs in both modern fashion, and indeed skateboarding. Wander around any high street, shopping centre, or wherever you like to frequent, and there’s a pretty good chance you’ll spot the Vans checkerboard in some form or other.
The story goes that Vans first clocked on to the checkerboard design after Steve Van Doren, the current Vice President of Vans, noticed that southern Californian skateboarders had begun to colour in checkerboard designs on the midsoles of their Vans shoes. In line with Van's original ethos, of doing basically whatever the customer wanted them to do, Vans adopted this quickly and began to not only produce shoes with checkerboard on the midsole but on the canvas of the shoes too.
The Vans checkerboard's popularity exploded in the year 1982 thanks to Amy Heckerling's, now cult classic film, Fast Time at Ridgemont High. Sean Penn had stumbled across a pair of Vans Checkerboard Slip Ons in the Santa Monica Vans store. The character he played in the film, slacker icon Jeff Spiccoli, wore the shoes throughout the film, which lead to a huge spike in their popularity.
Off the back of this incredibly successful, albeit entirely accidental, marketing campaign the Vans checkerboard is now found everywhere, across the entire Vans range. You can wander into a skate shop and see Vans Old Skools with a checkerboard design, the Vans Slip On now comes in a multitude of checkerboard colours, Vans backpacks and apparel also utilise the checkerboard to make them instantly recognisable as a Vans product. It's quite funny that the complete coincidence of Sean Penn wandering into a store to see some Slip Ons created what is now one of the most commonly found patterns in popular fashion, but it goes to show that sometimes the simplest ideas are the best.
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