Chuck Taylor All-Stars
Chuck Taylor All Stars, or Converse All Stars, also referred to as "Converses" "Chuck Taylors," "All Stars," "Chucks" or "Cons," are canvas and rubber shoes produced by Converse. They were first produced in 1917 as the "All Star," Converse's attempt to capture the basketball shoe market. Chuck Taylor, a basketball player and shoe salesman for Converse, improved the shoe's design and became the product's spokesperson in the 1920s.
Converse Rubber Shoe Company was created by Marquis Mills Converse in 1908 in Malden, Massachusetts. In 1917, the company designed a shoe called the All Star. The shoe was composed of a rubber sole and canvas upper and was designed to be an elite shoe for the professional basketball league. In 1921, a basketball player by the name of Charles "Chuck" Taylor joined a basketball team sponsored by the Converse Company called The Converse All Stars. 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. As a salesman and athlete for the company, Taylor also made improvements to the shoe he loved. His ideas for the shoe were designed to provide enhanced flexibility and support and also incorporated a patch to protect the ankle. All Stars were soon worn by a variety of professional basketball players and 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 numerous groups and subcultures.
In 1923, after Chuck Taylor made improvements to the shoe, Converse decided to incorporate his 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 Star. When first created, the Converse All Star had three 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 wasn't until after World War II that Converse decided to make the toe guard, laces and outer wraps white, which gave the appearance of the iconic black and white Converse All Stars of today. In 1957, Converse came out with the low-cut "Oxford" version of the All Star and soon after started to produce the shoes in multiple colors and prints. Today, Converse makes the Chuck Taylor All Star in a variety of colors, styles, prints and fabrics.
The shoe now features fabric on the bottom of the sole. This way, the shoe is classified as a slipper instead of a sneaker and is therefore subject to a much smaller import tariff.
In 2003, Nike bought Converse brand name for around $305 million. While Converse dominated the U.S. sneaker market from the 1920s until the 1970s, it began to struggle due to competition and lack of funds. In the years following, Converse filed for bankruptcy multiple times and fell into further debt and eventually sold to Nike. Chuck Taylor All Stars as well as Converse's other shoes began to be manufactured in foreign countries like China, Vietnam and Indonesia. Longtime Converse fans were against the change and many people took a stand against the sweatshop manufacturing of the shoes. Some even stopped wearing the shoes. Many also feared that Nike would change the look and status of All Stars and over-commercialize the shoes, although Nike has not changed the look or advertising of Converse since buying in 2003.
In popular culture
Throughout the years, Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars made a shift from athletic sportswear to casual footwear. Originally an elite basketball shoe, the Chuck Taylor All Star evolved into the shoe of choice for many subcultures. The shoes became popular among many groups throughout the decades.
The iconic American punk rock group The Ramones famously wore them during nearly all of their public appearances over the band’s career, helping to give the brand worldwide counterculture status, particularly in The United States where the brand is commonly associated with youth culture. Chuck from the NBC television show Chuck wears Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars. Kurt Cobain from the massively popular grunge band Nirvana wore Converse All Stars. Michael Echanis wore blackened Chuck Taylors while working as a civilian consultant to the military to help ease the pain he had from a previous injury.
On the television series M*A*S*H, Captain B.J. Hunnicutt wore Converse All Stars in the later seasons. The Tenth Doctor, from the British television show Doctor Who wore Converse All Stars. Also WWE Diva A.J. Lee wears knee-high All Stars to the ring. In the Sin City books and movie, the character of Dwight McCarthy wears red Chuck Taylors.
American rapper Wiz Khalifa has referenced Chuck Taylor shoes in multiple songs. He wears the shoes on and off stage regularly. His clothing line and record label Taylor Gang Records is named after the rapper’s appreciation of the shoes.
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