The Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars, known to sneakerheads as the iconic Converse “Chucks”, has a rich history that goes way back. So far back, at time of production, we weren’t even born yet. And now, after many years of remaining largely unchanged, the legendary canvas kicks have finally been redesigned.
But before we introduce you to the revamped shoes, let’s take a walk down memory lane and get to know the “Chucks”. Trust us when we say that there’s actually a lot of backstory behind it 😉
1. One official name, many other ways of calling it
The Chuck Taylor All Stars or the Converse All Stars goes by many names. Often, it is also referred to as “Converses”, “Chuck Taylors”, “Chucks”, “Cons”, and “All Stars”. The “Chucks” is the brand name for a pair of athletic shoes produced by Nike, Inc. through its Converse division. Yes, Nike. Nike has owned the rights to the brand since acquiring its former competitor out of bankruptcy in 2003. But bankruptcy or not, one has to give props to the original company that has made the kicks go from the world’s most prevalent basketball sneaker to a lifestyle staple. Even if the design has gone virtually unchanged since 1949 – that’s 66 whole years!
2. The Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars was “born” in 1917
First produced in 1917 as the “All Star”, the kicks was Converse’s attempt to capture the basketball shoe market. The shoes were later formally named after Chuck Taylor (real name Charles Hollis “Chuck” Taylor) a high school basketball player and shoe salesman for Converse. Taylor held basketball clinics in high schools all over the county and while teaching the fundamentals of the game, he sold the All Star shoes. He got a salary but he never received commission for all the sales that he made or royalties from the use of his name though! Oh, and Chuck Taylor was also responsible for having improved the shoe’s design (the ankle patch idea was his!) and became the product’s spokesperon in the 1920s.
3. The Chucks became a shoe phenomenon, loved by even soldiers
When basketball debuted as a medal sport in 1936, the American team played in Chucks and won the first of 7 consecutive gold medals. Soon after, All Stars were being worn by athletes in the Olympics, and during the World War II, American soldiers began to wear All Stars while in training. Throughout the years, the Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars made a shift from athletic sportswear to casual footwear. Originally an elite basketball shoe, it evolved into the shoe of choice for many subcultures, particularly artistes and musicians. Yes, in not so many words, it became mainstream.
4. Initial Converse Chuck Taylor All Star design tweaks
In 1923, Converse decided to incorporate Chuck Taylor’s name onto the ankle patches that displayed the Converse All Star logo. Then, in the 1930s Taylor’s signature was put into the design, which is how the shoe became known as the “Chuck Taylor” All Stars. When first created, the Converse All Star had 3 main styles – a monochromatic shoe with a black canvas upper and black rubber soles, an all white shoe with blue and red trim, and an all black leather and rubber shoe. It was not until 1949 that Converse decided to make the toe guard, laces, and outer wraps white aka the appearance of the iconic black and white Converse All Stars of today. In 1957, Converse came out with the low-cut “Oxford” version and soon after started to produce the shoes in multiple colors and prints.
5. When the flood gates opened and the choices poured in
There was a time when all sneaker freakers had to choose from was either black or white, high top or low-cut. Variety was scarce and one could probably get away with dyeing the Chucks to their liking. Fortunately, today, Converse makes the Chuck Taylor All Stars in a variety of colors, styles, prints, and fabrics. In 1971, suede was first put on the Chucks. After which, Converse realised the potential in offering a variety and started making the kicks in a bunch of primary colours. That opened the flood gates for more and more crazy designs. Several special editions have been made, including DC Comics, The Ramones, AC/DC, Sailor Jerry, Metallica, The Clash, Dr. Seuss, Grateful Dead, Ozzy Osbourne, Jimi Hendrix, Drew Brophy, Nirvana, Bad Meets Evil, Green Day, Gorillaz, Matt and Kim, Black Sabbath, the Control, green, brown or camouflage edition, Super Mario and Danny Potthoff. There was even a stars and stripes pairs that was produced in 1992 (because United States), which was donated to the Smithsonian, the nation’s largest repository of its history.
6. All Stars’ stranglehold of the basketball sneaker and sneaker market
By the 1940s, the Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars were just the most popular basketball shoes. By the 1960s, roughly 90% of college and professional basketball players wore Chuck Taylor All Stars. And by 1966, Converse had an 80% share of the US sneaker market. So you see, Converse didn’t only have a grip on the basketball sneakers market, but also the sneaker market. Talk about wildly popular, talk about domination! It was a “disease” that spread so far and wide that in 1989, The Rolling Stones made the Chucks the official sneaker of their “Steel Wheels Tour”. And at its peak, Converse made approximtely 500 versions of the Chucks.
7. Until about 14 years ago, Chucks were made in the US
Despite their stranglehold on the market in the 1960s, by the 1990s Converse was in trouble. In fact, the last NBA player to wear Chucks in a game was Tree Rollins – until 1979. By then there were a number of much better shoes on the market. Props to Tree for sticking out for so long though! In any case, in 2001, like every other clothing and shoe manufacturer, Converse was forced to move operations overseas in order to remain competitive. Chuck Taylor All Stars as well as Converse’s other shoes began to be manufactured in foreign countries like China, Vietnam and Indonesia. Nike then swooped in like a hero in 2003 and bought the Converse brand name for around USD305 million.
8. Chuck Taylor, the model salesman and his impact on the brand
If we haven’t already said it enough, Chuck Taylor was an exceptional representative for Converse. Joe Dean, who worked as a sales executive for raison for nearly 30 years before becoming the athletic director at Louisiana State University, told Bob R of The Philadelphia Inquirer, “It was impossible not to like him, and he knew everybody. If you were a coach and you wanted to find a job, you called Chuck Taylor. Athletic directors talked to him all the time when they were looking for a coach.” For years, he drove a white Cadillac across the country with a trunk full of shoes, living in motels, and with only a locker in the company’s Chicago warehouse as a permanent residence. In 1968, Chuck Taylor retired and was inducted into the “Basketball Hall of Fame”. Just one day short of his 68th birthday in June 1969, Taylor died of a heart attack in Port Charlotte, Florida.
9. Apparently, a pair of Chucks is purchased every 43 seconds
We know what you’re wondering! If Converse had peviously gone bankrupt, then how popular are the shoes today? Well, according to at least one source, someone somewhere in the world buys a pair of Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars every 43 seconds. Do the math, and that works out to about 700,000 pairs sold per year. As for all-time sales, they’ve roughly estimated that about 800 million All Stars have been sold. Some estimate that 60% of the population of the US either owns and or has owned a pair of Chucks in their lifetime. Because they are a unisex design, the same sneakers are worn by both men and women, girls and boys. Not bad for a pair of shoes that has remained largely unchanged since its introduction, no? 😉
10. The debut of the Chuck Taylor II, made with Nike technology
After years and years of remaining “untouched”, in July 2015, Converse Inc. debuted the all new Converse Chuck Taylor All Star II aka Chuck II, a contemporary adaptation of the legendary Chuck Taylor All Star silhouette. For the first time, the Chuck II incorporates the Nike innovative Lunarlon technology to support the always-on creative lifestyle. This includes the Nike Lunarlon sock-liner for superior full foot cushioning and arch support, foam padded collar and non-slip gusseted tongue for 360-degree comfort and a perforated micro suede liner, for breathability during extended periods of war. With the “merge”, it retains the outward appearance of the original while employing a modern lightweight insole for increased comfort and reduced fatigue.
The Converse Chuck Taylor All Star II is now available at a retail price of RM269.90 (oxford) and RM289.90 (high top) at Converse KLCC, Converse Pavilion, as well as Solewhat and Crossover, and via the brand’s official website.