Chuck Taylor All-Stars
Chuck Taylor All-Stars or Converse All Stars (also referred to as "Converses", "Chuck Taylors", "Chucks", "Cons", and "All Stars") is the brand name for a pair of casual shoes developed and produced by Converse, which has been a subsidiary of Nike, Inc. since 2003.
The design of the Chuck Taylor All-Star has remained largely unchanged since its introduction. The shoes consist of a stitched upper portion, a toe cap usually made of white rubber, and a sole that is usually made of brown rubber. Although Chuck Taylors are made of various materials such as leather, the original and most widely known version of the shoe is made from cotton canvas. The innovative detail of the original shoe was the "loose lining" of soft canvas. This was intended to move along with sweaty gym socks and prevent blisters.
An improved model, the Chuck Taylor II, was announced by company management in July 2015. Incorporating Nike technology, it retains the outward appearance of the original while employing a modern lightweight insole for increased comfort and reduced fatigue. The new shoes sell for $80 including tax, a 60% premium over the originals' $50 in 2015 dollars. The shoe is also available for children.
Converse Rubber Shoe Company was created by Marquis Mills Converse in 1908 in Malden, Massachusetts. In 1917, the company designed 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, American basketball player 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.
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 numerous groups and subcultures.
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, particularly artists and musicians. "In recent years, it has become a more mainstream trend seemingly endorsed by everyone except podiatrists."
Tree Rollins was the last player to wear Canvas Converse All Stars in the NBA when in the 1979–1980 season he laced up modified Chuck Taylors which had the Circle Star patch removed on the inside ankle. Instead these had star chevrons glued to the sides of the canvas similar to the Converse All Star II that had been sold earlier. Micheal Ray Richardson actually wore Leather Converse All Stars briefly with the New Jersey Nets after 1982, making him the last to wear the shoe in the NBA.
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, India, Vietnam and Indonesia.
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 was not until 1949 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.
While the high-cut shoes feature the iconic ankle patch All Star logo, the heel of the shoe (both high and low-cuts) also includes the logo, which is glued on and reads: ALL★STAR. The low-cuts do not feature the ankle patch; however, they have a tag stitched on the tongue which has the same logo as the heel. In 2013, the logo has slightly altered on the heel and tongue. It contains the word "CONVERSE", in addition to ALL★STAR. The ankle patches of the high-cut shoes are unchanged.
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 early 2013, Converse launched the Chuck Taylor All Star '70, which featured a build similar to the All Stars used for basketball that were built in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This retro model is different from the then current Chuck Taylor All Stars due to the various changes that happened to the All Star shoes over the intervening three decades. The '70 model featured thicker canvas, a higher rubber midsole and foxing, thicker cushioning, a smaller toe cap, extra material that was stitched on the side wall behind the toe cap for reinforcement, a one-piece rubber bottom sole versus the three piece sole on the modern All Stars, and a black heel patch versus a white one on the modern All Star.
On July 28, 2015, Converse released the Chuck Taylor All Star II. This shoe differed from the standard, modern All Star in several ways:
- a thicker Tencel canvas;
- a higher rubber midsole and foxing similar in size to the All Star '70, but using lighter weight rubber;
- a new thicker Lunarlon cushioning;
- a slightly smaller toe cap;
- two elastic bands at the base of the tongue, to avoid slippage to the sides;
- a sewn-on ankle patch on the high-tops;
- a two-piece rubber bottom sole versus the three piece sole on the modern All Stars;
- a heel patch with 3-D letters versus a flat one on the modern All Star.
A few months after the release of the Chuck II, some special series were released with different canvas textures, like the Chuck II Knit, the Chuck II Shield Canvas and the Chuck II Rio Open Knit, to celebrate the Rio Olympics.
One year after the release, the Chuck II was considered a commercial failure, with retailers reporting poor sales.
Although Chuck Taylor All-Stars vanished from the professional basketball scene completely by 1979, they continued to flourish in popular culture and fashion. As fashion icons, Chuck Taylors have played a role in several subcultures, and the company has in turn promoted this as part of the shoes' cachet. Converse has used Chuck Taylor All-Stars to enhance the brand's cultural and subcultural relevance. Chuck Taylor All-Stars proved their continuity throughout the 20th and 21st centuries through their portrayal in film, art, and music culture, as well as through use in sports sub-culture including weightlifting.
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 1980s 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.
Film and television
Perhaps indicative of the shoes' iconic status or of their mainstream success, nearly five hundred films and television shows 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 black Chuck Taylors. David Tennant wore three different colored Chuck Taylors throughout the British TV Show Doctor Who, when he played the Tenth Doctor. Chucks made many appearances in other notable films such as The Sandlot, The Right Stuff, 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.
In 2015, Converse released the “Converse All-Star Andy Warhol collection, in partnership with the Andy Warhol Foundation.” In honor of Warhol's contributions to visual art, Converse designed the All-Star shoe to commemorate Warhol's subcultural influence. Andy Warhol was a pop artist.
Although intended as a basketball shoe, powerlifting athletes have embraced Chuck Taylors as ideal for the sport. Chucks have flat, rubber soles that enforce correct posture on movements such as deadlifts, squats, and bench presses. "The 71-year-old Pete Bennett also set a world record for the squat in his age class at 465 lbs in a pair of Converse." The strong canvas material allows powerlifters to push their feet to the outside on squats which helps keep their knees out and activates their glutes." The low-top Chuck Taylors provide complete ankle mobility, as the canvas does not cover the ankles. Chuck Taylor All-Stars may have lost their practicality within the professional basketball community, but their popularity among weight lifters is prominent.
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