Dependent on where you’re from and how old you are, you’ll know these iconic sneakers by a few different names. All Stars, Converse, Cons, Chuck Taylor’s and just Chucks are just a few common names used.
But no matter what you call them, they are the most instantly recognisable sneakers ever sold. You will find them in the most remote places on earth to the centre of some of fashions biggest events, because to this day, they are also one of the most affordable and versatile sneakers out there.
For me, there is just something nostalgic that brings me back to my teenage years, and I can still remember the first pair of dark blue Chucks I ever owned. It was like walking on air, and I just thought I was on top of the world since absolutely nothing made you keep up with the older kids in school.
And it’s all about such a simple design idea.
In the 100 years since they were first launched, very little, and I mean VERY little has really changed. Probably one of the biggest changes came in 1932 when the actual Chuck Taylor signature was added onto the star logo on the side.
Yup, it wasn’t there form the start, but where would these sneakers be without them?
From the beginning, the upper has always been a light stitched canvas material, and Converse always focused on providing a lot of colour choices. See, the advantage with the simple cotton upper was that it’s really easy to add colour in so many different ways.
For me, the next most recognisable feature is the smooth white toe cap that’s made of soft rubber. It’s actually a lot more functional than you would believe. And if you ever wore sneakers as a kid until they were falling apart, then you’ll know that the toe is often the first place to fail.
For many decades, All Stars were only available as high top sneakers as they were initially designed for sports like basketball. However, the low top ones are probably just as popular these days, and despite not having the star logo on them, you can still quickly recognise the look.
The upper has traditionally always been a cotton canvas, but there are also some leather and suede options available. Even though they are so different than the traditional Chucks, they aren’t as popular as you might think.
From a sales perspective, it’s still the canvas ones that totally dominate.
Another material that hasn’t changed much at all is the rubber sole, which is still the same tan colour as it always has been. You’ll also always notice the white band of rubber that is wrapped around the outer sole.
And it’s the simple materials that mean you can still buy them quite cheap at a time when the most popular kicks often cost hundreds of dollars.
Because of the simple structure of the design, over the years there have been many flips and reimagination of the Chuck Taylor.
Influence in Culture
Throughout the 60s and 70s, Chucks were among the most popular basketball shoes out there. These days there is a lot more focus on providing ankle support and cushioning through advanced sole technology.
But it’s this popularity with basketball players that also brought them into street culture, especially break dancing in the 80s. The lightness, and ability to find constantly new colourways meant that breakers could easily stand out from each other.
And that of course then filtered through to hip-hop and rap culture where they have long been a very common feature in music videos. LA seemed to adapt Chuck Taylors to be a staple shoe through the ’80s until now. Many successful artists sported chucks, such as Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, Wiz Khalifa, Dr Dre and Members of Cypress Hill and other notorious West Coast Rap Crews. “The Documentary” by The Game prominently feature Chuck Taylors on the cover as well as references laced throughout the album, showing the cultural significance of the shoe at the time.