The world of fashion lost an icon last month. To be exact, the world of fashion lost a shoe-con, and skateboarding will never be the same.

James Van Doren, creator of Vans shoes, that perpetual footwear of the California skateboarder which was propelled into the American shoe culture after being worn by Sean Penn in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” passed away at his home in Fullerton, CA on October 12. The cause was cancer.Van Doren was 72-years-old.

Van Doren started the Van Doren Rubber Company in 1966, with his brother and two others. The company’s singular offering was rubber-soled, canvas, leisure shoes. With the intention of creating a shoe that had an extra strong grip for wearing on the deck of a boat, Van Doren worked with a chemist to create a new recipe for high-grip rubber.

Using skills he learned while training to be a mechanical engineer, Van Doren developed the shoe’s distinctive and unmistakable tread pattern: diamonds interrupted by a band of small, six-pointed stars at the ball of the foot. When the new rubber and the unique tread design were put to work together, Van Duren had indeed created a supremely clingy shoe, and Vans were born.

Add an appearance in a cult classic and the always-recognizable checkered pattern, and America had itself a fad.

Click here for a photo tribute to the classic Vans sneakers.

[Via NY Times]