Van Doren, co-founder of Vans, dies at 72


James Van Doren, the creator of Vans' iconic waffle sole, died last month at the age of 72. The Vans sole he created is tried and trusted among many generations of BMXers, including Vans team rider Ty Morrow.

According to, James Van Doren, the co-founder of Vans Shoes, passed away on October 12 after a long illness. Van Doren, 72, was responsible for the construction of the first soles for Vans shoe, including Vans' iconic waffle sole design, which remains a staple under the feet of many professional BMXers and skateboarders over thirty years after being introduced in the Anaheim, Calif. area.

In an obituary on the LA Times site, Van Doren was hailed as "a mechanic, a chemist, the brains behind the early shoe" by his nephew Steve Van Doren, and praised for his ability to grow Vans in the brand's formative years. "He guided Vans through the checkerboard era, and we were flying," Steve Van Doren told the LA Times. "We were the hottest thing going."

Under James Van Doren's direction, the brand gained worldwide notoriety via product placement in the 1982 film "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," but left the brand to work as a contractor following a management shake-up in 1984.


Vans checkerboard slip-ons, popularized by Sean Penn's character Jeff Spicoli in the 1982 film "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

In a statement from Vans, James Van Doren was called a "great innovator" that helped to set the stage for the global brand that Vans has become today.

Van Doren leaves behind a waffle-soled legacy that will carry on for generations for come, and every time you don't slip a pedal because of a Vans' waffle sole, you know who to thank.

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