On August 13th of 1982, the Southern California surf and skate culture that helped make Vans what it is today, took a major jump into mainstream thanks to the release of the popular movie, Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
The character of Jeff Spicoli, played by Sean Penn, was the epitome of a slacker, but also embodied the constant party lifestyle that was often the real life experience for ‘rebellious’ skateboarders and surfers of Southern California in the early 80’s. He even played in a band, which is also a big part of the Vans culture to this day. The movie helped make the Black and White checkered Vans Slip-On one of the most popular sneakers of the early 80’s and helped Vans become a household name for anyone who has picked up a skateboard since then. From his intro to the end of the movie, Spicoli can be seen wearing the classic shoes, at one point even hitting himself in the head with them during his extracurricular activities. It’s even rumored that the Aloha Pack that came out this summer was inspired by Spicoli’s Hawaiian shirt from the movie.
Since the initial release of the movie, the Black and White Checkered Vans Slip-On has been a regular issue for Vans (@Vans_66), and one of their most popular models of all time. The interesting backstory behind the checkered pattern is that it began literally, from the bottom up. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, kids began to color in the waffle sole of their Vans sneakers, creating the checkerboard pattern, always paying attention to the culture, Vans decided to move the pattern to the shoe’s upper materials, and a legend was born.
What’s even more “Off the Wall” about the Vans from Fast Times At Ridgemont High, is that it wasn’t a planned product placement, it was Sean Penn who brought the shoes in himself for his character.