THE Summer Staple – A History.Posted: June 12, 2016
“dievca, almost every young Woman we’ve seen in Madrid is wearing a knock-off version of these shoes. It’s the international footwear for the summer…” ~Master on Chuck Taylors
dievca was researching the Chuck Taylors she bought for summer and got completely distracted by the company’s history and cache~take a look!
Converse Rubber Shoe Company was created by Marquis Mills Converse in 1908, The location was Malden, Massachusetts. In 1917, the company created the “All Star” shoe. The shoe was composed of a rubber sole/canvas upper and was designed to be an elite shoe for the professional basketball league.
Chuck Taylor? Taylor was born in Brown County, Indiana in 1901. He dreamed of being a basketball star. He’d played ball in an industrial league, organized among corporations for marketing purposes. His team was the Akron Firestone Non-Skids.
In 1921, Chuck Taylor went to seek work in Chicago and found it at Converse. He joined their basketball team which were called The Converse All Stars and they held basketball clinics in high schools all over the county. While Taylor was teaching the fundamentals of the game, he also sold the All Star shoes. As a salesman and an athlete he suggested improvements to the shoes including enhanced flexibility/support and incorporating a patch to protect the ankle.
During his travels, Taylor met many athletic directors and became the go-between for those seeking jobs and those hiring. “It was impossible not to like him, and he knew everybody,” said future Converse Vice President Joe Dean, in an interview with the Philadelphia Enquirer, “if you were a coach and you wanted to find a job, you called Chuck Taylor.” In 1932 they added the iconic star and Chuck’s signature to the patch. His endorsement never received a dollar in commission.
A variety of professional basketball players soon wore All Stars and they became the envy of all aspiring basketball players. Soon after, All Stars were being worn by athletes in the Olympics, and during World War II American soldiers began to wear All Stars while in training.
In the 1960s, Converse began to expand their company and open more factories and by that time, Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars were being worn by ninety percent of professional and college basketball players. As the years went on, the shoe gained more popularity and became a favorite for many groups and subcultures, particularly artists and musicians. “In recent years, it has become a more mainstream trend seemingly endorsed by everyone except podiatrists.”
Converse was one of the few producers of athletic shoes. Roughly from 1920 to 1980 the company dominated the American market. There wasn’t much competition. The first real competitor who would ultimately dislodge Converse was Nike with their Air Jordan shoe.
Chuck Taylors started to look old, and the high-tech sheen of newer shoe brands began to cut deeply into Converse profits. This was the dawn of sneaker culture and companies like Reebok and Adidas were rushing to enter a new market. Converse didn’t understand the shift, which left the company in disarray and into bankruptcy during 2001. In 2003 Nike bought them out for $309 Million.
So how did it happen that the biggest athletic shoe maker could be essentially destroyed and yet not lose an ounce of it’s cultural cache?
Starting with the Ramones —
Chuck Taylors became the shoes of musicians.
Converse All-Stars established and maintained their presence in the rock and roll and punk rock communities via popular musical artists including Avril Lavigne, Elvis Presley, The Ramones, Grateful Dead, Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, Hootie and the Blowfish, Green Day, Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, Jason Mraz, Miley Cyrus, and Fall Out Boy. Chucks can be seen throughout multiple music videos, ranging from 1980’s grunge to 2013 hit Wrecking Ball, by Miley Cyrus. Due to the prevalence of musicians wearing Chucks, as part of the Converse Century Project the company began issuing models of the shoe which recall specific musicians.
Ice Cube remembers wearing Chucks growing up:
“Growing up in Compton [Los Angeles] in the ’80s, I started wearing Chuck Taylors by watching my older brothers, my friends, my uncles. All the gangbangers wore Chuck Taylors. They were what they made you wear in the prisons and Youth Authority camps. You’d see all these gangsters going to the surplus stores and buying Chuck Taylors because they looked good with a pair of khaki pants and a T-shirt. You could spend $60 and look fresh. Black Chuck Taylors worked with that raw, hard-core street feel that N.W.A wanted, even if some people were more into Jordans and shit.” – SPIN Magazine, “Chucks & Bucks: An Oral History of the Coolest Shoes on Earth”
It took some time for Converse to realize musicians were in a sense the new basketball stars. But they’ve embraced it and made it the tip of the company’s spear. Wiz Khalifa’s a big fan with his own run of the shoes. Converse even started making music. “3 Artists 1 Song” was something they used to do: grabbing three flavors of the day and putting them to work on a single.
Acts like Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, Santigold, Pharrell Williams, James Murphy, Andre 3000 and Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz) have taken part. Now Converse has a recording studio in New York City that will let new artists record for free. There’s even a contest now to hand over the keys to 12 of world’s most famous recording studios (think Abbey Road) to aspiring rockers and rappers.
Perhaps indicative of the shoes’ iconic status or of their mainstream success, nearly five hundred films feature actors in a leading or main supporting role wearing Chucks.The most iconic of all probably being Back To The Future, where Michael J. Fox wears white Chuck Taylors throughout the film. Chucks made many appearances in other notable films such as Rocky, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Get A Clue, Bruce Almighty, Jurassic World, I, Robot, Sin City, worn by Elvis Presley in Follow That Dream and Change Of Habit, and A Beautiful Mind.
That’s a shoe with a lot of Street Cred — Thanks, Chuck!
Thank you to Man’s Life ,Wikipedia, SPIN and various sources around the web.