Of all the sneakers available, there is one that quite literally has not changed much in appearance in its 100-year history. While for the first 50 years the Converse All-Stars were an affordable sports sneaker for the working classes, they have since become much more of a cult and fashion statement.
With music artists from Snoop Dog to Miley Cyrus and Ed Sheeran wearing them on a regular basis, they have also heavily featured in box office hits like Back To The Future and I, Robot.
It seems to be a design that is loved by young and old, pop and hip-hop fans alike, but where did that success come from?
Where Did It All Start?
Founded in Massachusetts in 1908 by Marquis Mills Converse, the initial intention was to produce affordable rubber-soled shoes that were suitable for summer and winter. You actually have to put yourself back into that timeframe to understand how big a deal this was.
Rubber was not commonly used for shoes, as leather had always been the harder wearing material. But it’s an awful lot harder and much less comfortable, especially when it comes to sports like athletics and basketball. People were just used to having pretty sore feet.
So when rubber was introduced at a reasonable price with a really simple design, the very large working class of the time was quickly able to switch to something a lot more comfortable. And just a couple of years after the company started, they expanded into sports shoes.
Since those early days, Converse has seen many challenges from wars to bankruptcy and an eventual buy-out by Nike. But one thing hasn’t changed, and that is the look of the totally iconic All Stars, or Chucks as they often called.
But what’s behind the “Chucks” name?
Who Was Chuck Taylor?
The first Converse sports shoe was the All-Star basketball shoe in 1917, and it was an immediate hit. Players loved them, and they also became popular with high school kids. But it wasn’t until 1923 that a player named Charles “Chuck” Taylor complained about how sore his feet were after spending all day walking or playing ball.
He loved the shoes, and Converse gave him a job as a salesman which he excelled in. He was such a successful ambassador for the company that by 1932, his signature was added to the star emblem on the shoes he was promoting.
And that’s basically how a simple shoe became known as Chucks.
The popularity with basketball players continued well into the 60s and 70s, and legendary Wilt Chamberlain exclusively played in them throughout his career favouring them over the equally popular Adidas shoes.
Why Street Culture Adopted Converse Allstars
With basketball gaining popularity in the 60s and 70s, there was already a good foundation for Converse to become a favoured sneaker for kids shooting hops in the streets.
Beyond being comfortable, they have always been available in a huge selection of colourways which appealed especially to young kids as it allowed them to stand out from the crowd of boring monotone sneakers.
By the 80s B-Boy culture also jumped on Chucks mainly because they were pretty much the lightest sneakers available. And that made them perfectly suitable for breakdancing. While they might not be as popular as other Nike branded products these days, you’ll still find the odd hip hop album cover and music video featuring them.
Go check out your CD collection or jump onto Spotify to look for a now classic album called “The Documentary” by L.A rapper, The Game. There’s no mistaking the sneakers on that cover or what they meant.
The Unmistakable Chuck Taylor All Stars
Of all the sneakers ever made, Chucks, are probably the ones that are most recognisable and least changed in their 100-year history. It’s a very simple design with a cotton canvas upper and usually a white rubber toe tip.
The sole is made of a tan rubber, and the traditional ones have always been just above ankle high. And the only authentic ones have the 5-point star emblem on the side which also has the Chuck Taylor signature.
In a fashion world where so much effort is put into constant re-invention of designs and materials, Cons really are the perfect sneaker for a traditionalist. The only real changes that have happened over the decades is that you can buy low-cut ones and some new materials have been introduced.
The new materials include leather and suede, which have given designers a little more room to come up with new ideas. But it’s still mainly down to different colour combinations that is helping the company come up with new ideas.
Whether it’s rainbow colours in support of diversity or the totally slick urban graffiti options that have appeared, you will definitely find some that suit your style.