James Van Doren, co-founder of Vans shoes, passed away at the age of 72. Van Doren co-founded Vans, originally known as the Van Doren Rubber Co., with his older brother Paul in 1966 in Anaheim, CA.

Vans became particularly popular in the skateboarding crowd that exploded in Southern California in the early 1970s. The shoes were valued for the sticky rubber soles that helped skaters
grip their boards, an innovation devised by Van Doren, according to the
Los Angeles Times.

Van Doren ran the company from 1976 to 1984. According to the Los Angeles Times, James expanded its manufacturing
operation, doubled its workforce and significantly expanded Vans product
line far beyond the initial deck shoes into the broader athletic shoe
market. A pinnacle moment came after Sean Penn wore a pair of
checkerboard slip-on Vans to play the Jeff Spicoli in the 1982
film “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”

Facing increased foreign imitators, heavy losses led to a bankruptcy for Vans. He was ousted in 1984 and returned
control to his brother, Paul. Four years later, an investment banking company bought
Vans, which has been sold several times since. It is now owned by VF Corp.

addition to Char, his wife of 15 years, Van Doren is survived by his
sons from a previous marriage, James, Mark and Eric; brothers Paul and
Robert; sister Bernice; and five grandchildren.