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'Fast Times at Ridgemont High': 27 years of Vans, Spicoli and SoCal culture

August 13, 2009 | 11:56 am


If it weren't for today's topic at The Toilet Paper (which bills itself -- with no small measure of mock reverence -- as "daily news for the thinking man"), it would have slipped right by me that today marks the 27th anniversary of  the release of "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," the Amy Heckerling-directed, Cameron Crowe-written1982 movie that introduced my generation to Phoebe Cates' breasts, Sean Penn's career and the iconic black-and-white checkerboard slip-on skate shoes known as Vans.

As a kid from rural Vermont, the movie represented the exotic world of cool California style reflected in the wardrobe choices of the assorted sun sponges, free spirits and law-benders that enjoyed a hedonistic Eden that was 3,000 miles and three time zones away.

Nearly three decades later, I had the opportunity to sit down with Steve Van Doren -- son of co-founder Paul Van Doren and he told me how that shoe's checkerboard cameo changed the course of the entire company:

" 'Fast Times' definitely put us on the map," Van Doren said. "We were about a $20-million company before the movie came out, and we were on track for $40 million to $45 million after that."

So, for putting Vans on the map, Southern California in our hearts and the phrase "Aloha, Mr. Hand" on our lips, we salute you!

-- Adam Tschorn

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Photo: "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" soundtrack album depicting a pair of checkerboard slip-on Vans. Courtesy of Vans Inc.