Converse (shoe company)
||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (October 2013)|
|Subsidiary of Nike, Inc.|
|Founded||Malden, Massachusetts (February 1908)|
|Headquarters||Boston, Massachusetts, United States|
Converse // is an American shoe company with a production output that primarily consists of sportswear and lifestyle brand footwear. The company has been in existence since 1908 and, in 2003, was purchased for $305 million (USD) as a subsidiary of Nike, Inc.. Converse manufactures its products under the One Star, Chuck Taylor All Star, and Jack Purcell trade names. Converse shoes are distinguished by a number of features, including its star insignia. In fact, the All Star's rubber sole, smooth rounded top, and warp-around strip have become so recognizable that, in 2014, Converse filed a lawsuit before the U.S. International Trade Commission that accused Walmart, Skechers, Kmart, and 28 other retailers and manufacturers for trademark infringements. The effort was to preserve the shoe's authenticity rather than its function. A number of the litigants settled, including Fila and Iconix. In addition to footwear, the company sells other items globally through retailers in over 160 countries and through approximately 75 company-owned retail stores across the U.S.
At age 47, Marquis Mills Converse, who was previously a respected manager at a footwear manufacturing firm, opened the Converse Rubber Shoe Company (unrelated to the Boston Rubber Shoe Company founded by fourth cousin Elisha Converse) in Malden, Massachusetts in February 1908. The company was a rubber shoe manufacturer, providing winterized rubber soled footwear for men, women, and children. By 1910, Converse was producing shoes daily, but it was not until 1915 that the company began manufacturing athletic shoes for tennis.
The company's main turning point came in 1917 when the Converse All-Star basketball shoe was introduced. Then in 1921, a basketball player named Charles H. "Chuck" Taylor walked into Converse complaining of sore feet. Converse gave him a job: he worked as a salesman and ambassador, promoting the shoes around the United States, and in 1932 Taylor’s signature was added to the All Star patch on the classic, high-topped sneakers. He continued this work until shortly before his death in 1969.
Converse also customized shoes for the New York Renaissance (the "Rens"), the first all-African American professional basketball team. On March 2, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain, an American basketball player for the Philadelphia Warriors, scored 100 points in a game while wearing his pair of Chucks, taking a 169–147 victory over the New York Knicks.
1941–2000s: War, bankruptcy, and new management
When the U.S. entered World War II in 1941, Converse shifted production to manufacturing rubberized footwear, outerwear, and protective suits for the military. Widely popular during the 1950s and 1960s, Converse promoted a distinctly American image with its Converse Yearbook. Artist Charles Kerins created cover art that celebrated Converse's role in the lives of high school and college athletes.
Through its shoes, Converse developed into an iconic brand, and came to be seen as the essential sports shoe. In the 1970s, Converse purchased the trademark rights to Jack Purcell sneakers from B.F. Goodrich.
Converse lost much of its apparent near-monopoly from the 1970s onward, with the surge of new competitors, including Puma and Adidas, then Nike, then a decade later Reebok, who introduced radical new designs to the sports market. Converse found themselves no longer the official shoe of the National Basketball Association, a title they had relished for many years.
The chevron and star insignia — a logo that remains on a large portion of Converse footwear other than the All Star — was created by Jim Labadini, an employee.
Canvas-rubber shoes regained popularity in the 1980s as casual footwear, but Converse eventually became over-dependent of the "All Stars" brand, whose market collapsed by 1989-1990 as America entered a severe economic depression and the icons of the decade were subject to a wide backlash. By the second half of the 1990s, Converse was slipping repeatedly into receivership as debt piled up yearly, and its products were rejected by consumers in an increasingly competitive environment.
The loss of market share, combined with poor business decisions, forced Converse to file for bankruptcy on January 22, 2001. In April 2001, Footwear Acquisitions, led by Mardsen Cason and Bill Simon, purchased the brand from bankruptcy and added industry partners Jack Boys, Jim Stroesser, Lisa Kempa, and David Maddocks to lead the turnaround of America's Original Sports Company.
Nike approached the 1980s revival around 2005 to relaunch the footwear of choice of that decade, and the "Chucks" quickly became a cultural phenomenon once again. As a result, Nike expanded the Converse brand to other businesses apart from shoes, much akin to its other brands.
By November 2012 Converse had disappeared completely from the NBA, as the last dozen players wearing the brand either left the NBA or switched shoes over a period of a year and a half. Carlos Arroyo went overseas in late 2011. Maurice Evans last played for the Washington Wizards in April 2012. Nine switched to Nike: Acie Law (who went overseas) in late 2011; JJ Barea and Kirk Hinrich during the 2011-2012 season; Luke Harangody and Larry Sanders after the 2011-2012 season; Elton Brand, Louis Williams, and Kyle Korver for the 2012-2013 season; and Chris Andersen during the 2012-2013 season. Udonis Haslem, the last NBA player wearing Converse on the court, followed Miami Heat teammate Dwyane Wade to switch to Li-Ning in late November 2012.
In January 2013, Converse announced it would be moving to a new headquarters in April 2015. A new building, including a music studio, will be constructed near North Station in downtown Boston, on Lovejoy Wharf as part of a major site overhaul and restoration of public waterfront access.
An improved model of the Chuck Taylor All-Star, 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 are expected to sell for a 60% premium over the originals, $80 to $50 in 2015 dollars.
Under the "CONS" name, Converse launched its skateboarding program in 2009 with a team of "ambassadors": Kenny Anderson, Anthony Pappalardo, Nick Trapasso, Sammy Baca, Ethan Fowler, Raymond Molinar, and Rune Glifberg.
In 2012, the company added Jason Jessee and Mike Anderson to its ambassadors team.
In August 2012, Converse sponsored a skate event at Huntington Beach, California, US - including Trapasso, Tom Remillard, Aaron Homoki, Greyson Fletcher, Ben Raemers, Ben Hatchell, Robbie Russo, and Ben Raybourn participated in the competition that was held. Raybourn eventually won the US$20,000 grand prize and Homoki won the US$3,000 Best Trick contest.
As of July 2014, the CONS skateboard team consists of original members Anderson, Trapasso, Baca, and Glifberg, while Jessee, Anderson, Julian Davidson, Remillard, Zered Basset, Ben Raemers, Jake Johnson, Eli Reed, Louis Lopez, Sage Elsesser, and Sean Pablo were subsequently added. Bassett filmed a new advertisement that was broadcast online during July 2014, in which he skateboards through New York City, US in a newly launched skate shoe version of the Converse Weapon model, the "CONS Weapon Skate."
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In 2012, Pappalardo, who, at that time, was no longer listed as an "Ambassador" for the brand—along with Fowler—provided a detailed and candid interview on the 48 Blocks skateboarding website, in which he explains his experience with Converse's skateboarding division. Pappalardo's signature model shoe had been released in 2010 and, according to the skateboarder:
Word was, my shoe was actually doing alright. Actually, I don’t know that for sure, to this day I have never been told, but it seemed like every single kid in NY was running them and they just were everywhere. Since they kept it running the following three years with a total of over twenty different colorways of it being released, some as recently as 4 – 5 months ago, would I be the crazy one to say it was probably a success ...
Over the course of the interview, Pappalardo explains that his experience with the company "just comes down to blatant shady business". Pappalardo had left his previous sponsor, a highly regarded skate shoe brand named Lakai, to join Converse, a company that had made an offer based on Pappalardo's video part in the, at that time, recently released video, Fully Flared—Fully Flared became a widely praised, award-winning skate video that Pappalardo calls "the biggest, most watched skate video of our decade". In the interview, Pappalardo explained his decision to leave Lakai:
It was sketchy, and it was a major risk, but I took it and I had to stick to my guns. I had to believe it could work, but I knew it could work if done in a specific way and they were on the same page as I was about how to make that happen. With the Lakai video being released at that time, I was just what they needed and they got it. No big deal, that’s business.
According to Pappalardo, he was eventually offered a deal by Converse, but it was "embarrassing" and he "was making more being an amateur for Lakai"; however, Pappalardo believes that he was "backed up against the wall" and "had to sign" the contract, as the company had just released his signature shoe model. As of January 2013, Pappalardo is not listed on the "Ambassador" page of the Converse website and he explained in the 2012 interview:
Who knows what my relationship with cons is today… 90% of people I run into think I still ride for them. Why wouldn’t they, they put out the 22, 23, and 24th colorway of my shoe not even six months ago. I never got even anything close to a call, email, or anything telling me shit was going to go down, or I was kicked off, get prepared, or anything … They were cowards who did nothing but lie to me every month for two years digging my life into a whole of shit deeper and deeper every month … Your guess is as good as mine.
However, Pappalardo also reveals in the interview that he was no longer going to be paid by his clothing sponsor, Elwood, the day before getting dropped from Converse:
the icing on the cake was I found out the day before that the other team I rode for, Elwood (which I decided to continue to ride for despite getting other offers after the Lakai video as well ) was going to stop paying their skate team
To compound the situation, at around the same time he admits his salary was also completely cut by Chocolate, his board sponsor, in an interview on Epicly Later'd.
In 1986, Converse released "The Weapon" basketball shoe. Manufactured in two color schemes to match the kit colors of basketball teams, it has been available in both high-top and low cut varieties. The unique aspect of this shoe is the leather construction throughout, including the inside heel which is also heavily padded for comfort. Converse re-released "The Weapon" classic (which Kobe Bryant wore at least three times in 2002 and Andre Miller wore numerous times in 2002 from mid August to early September) several times from 2001-2003 and after, "The Loaded Weapon" in 2003, "The Weapon 86" in 2008 (and the Poorman version in 2009, and the John Varvatos version in 2012), "The Weapon EVO" in 2009, and its successor "The Star Player EVO" (sometimes reduced to "The Star Plyr EVO" or "The Star Ply EVO") in 2010.
The first endorsers of "The Weapon" were Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, who were prominently featured in a Converse commercial set in Bird's hometown of French Lick, Indiana in 1986. They were also worn by Axl Rose in the Guns N' Roses music video "Estranged".
Several special editions of Converse shoes 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. Three new designs were created for high tops, inspired by The Who.
A special collection called "1Hund (RED)", whereby fifteen percent of the profits are used to support HIV/AIDS prevention, was released by the brand. One hundred artists from around the world were chosen to create designs for the collection as part of the (RED) campaign. Professional skateboarder, Anthony Pappalardo, who, at the time, was also associated with another (RED) participant, Girl skateboards—Pappalardo was sponsored by Chocolate skateboards, a brand distributed by the Crailtap, the distribution company that owns both Girl and Chocolate— released a (RED) edition of his high-selling signature skate shoe model. A short video piece was published on the internet and Pappalardo explains in it:
I got into woodworking about two years ago, through a buddy of mine who I used to skate with every day—he turned into a woodworker. So he gave me this scrap box of wood, and, basically, I just wanted to do something with it ... make something with it. It just definitely started consuming me like skating did. I wanted to read about it, you know? Go on the internet and watch videos about it, and just learn anything and everything I could about woodworking. The first thing I ever made was a bench, and that's, kinda, what I've been making ever since. the cool thing about working with Product (RED) is just by doing the two things that I love, I'm also able to help people.
Pappalardo's first signature shoe with Converse was released in February 2010 and it was produced in the (RED) colorway.
In 2012, Converse is listed as a partner in the (RED) campaign, together with other brands such as Nike Inc., Girl, and Bugaboo. The campaign's mission is to prevent the transmission of the HIV virus from mother to child by 2015 (the campaign's byline is "Fighting For An AIDS Free Generation").
Former Converse college teams
- Marquette Golden Eagles (switched to Jordan when most famous alum, Dwyane Wade, signed with Jordan)
- Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (shoes only)
- "Converse turns 100". Chucksconnection.com. 2008-05-29. Retrieved 2011-08-31.
- "For $305 Million, Nike Buys Converse". nytimes.com. 2003-07-10. Retrieved 2014-09-24.
- Schiavenza, Matt, "Why Converse is Fighting to Keep All Stars Cool," The Atlantic, 15 October 2014.
- Butler-Young, Sheena, "Iconix and Fila Settle in Converse Lawsuit Saga," Footwear News, 9 April 2015.
- Perrin, Charles. "Old Sneakers (since 1935) - Goodrich (now Converse) Jack Purcell". Retrieved 2011-08-31.
- Wayne, Leslie. "For $305 Million, Nike Buys Converse". The New York Times. NYTimes.com. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
- Converse’s new Chuck Taylors get a comfort boost, Boston Globe, July 22, 2015; Minimalist sneaker launched in 1917 receives upgrade with Nike tech
- asayer (13 May 2009). "Cons Comes Back: A Look at Converse Skateboarding". Push.ca. Bell Canada. Retrieved 9 September 2012.
- "Ambassadors". Converse.com. Converse Inc. 2012. Retrieved 9 September 2012.
- RIDE Channel; Rob Brink; Erica Yary (3 August 2012). "Nick Trapasso, Tom Remillard & Robbie Russo at Coastal Carnage! Weeke ..." (Video upload). YouTube. Google, Inc. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
- Lance Dawes; Cory Williams (6 August 2012). "RAYBOURN CRUISES THROUGH CARNAGE". ESPN Action Sports. ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
- Brian Farmer (20 July 2014). "Converse Launches the CONS Weapon Skate Shoe with Short Film featuring Zered Bassett". High Snobiety. Titel Media. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
- Blair Alley (2 December 2009). "ANTHONY PAPPALARDO’S PROJECT RED CONS PRO MODEL". Transworld Skateboarding. Bonnier Corporation. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
- "Anthony Pappalardo". 48 Blocks. 48 Blocks. 2012. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
- "Chocolate Part 4" (Video). Epicly Later'd. Vice. 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
- Aaron Meza; crailtap (30 November 2009). "Anthony Pappalardo and (RED)" (Video upload). YouTube. Google, Inc. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
- "(RED)". (RED) Partners. (RED), a division of The ONE Campaign. 2012. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
- Media related to Converse at Wikimedia Commons
- Official web site
- Transworld Business Article Brophy Brings Surf Art to Converse