Friday, November 21, 2008

Chuck Taylor All Stars

converse logoChuck Taylor All-Stars, or Converse All-Stars, also referred to as "Chucks" or "Connies" 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. They were not particularly popular until basketball player Chuck Taylor adopted them as his preferred shoe. He was impressed with the design so he became the shoe's leading salesman. After proposing a few changes to the shoe, the shoe got its current name and Chuck Taylor's signature on its ankle patch. Although classic black is the most popular, Chuck Taylor was himself known to prefer unbleached white high-tops (known in his day as simply "white").

Consumers demanded more variety from the shoe - particularly with respect to colors in order to match basketball teams - so colored and patterned shoelaces became popular to complement the two colors, black and white, available before 1966. Afterwards, more colors and styles became available. Low-top or "Oxford", high-top, and later knee-high, versions were produced. More materials were offered for the construction, including leather, suede, vinyl, denim, and hemp. Some versions of the shoe were offered without laces, held up instead by elastic. These new versions of the shoe were also co-designed by Chuck Taylor, just before his death in 1969.

A full biography of Chuck Taylor was published by Indiana University Press in March 2006 under the title Chuck Taylor, All Star: The True Story of the Man Behind the Most Famous Athletic Shoe in History, with a foreword by the retired college basketball coach Dean Smith.

When Converse was bought by Nike and operations were moved from the United States to overseas, the design saw a few alterations. The fabric is no longer 2-ply cotton canvas but 1-ply "textile" and many wearers have noticed different patterns of wear.

The shoes are available in several core colors, seasonal colors, and a variety of print styles. In the 1950s the shoes became popular within the greaser subculture and amongst many fans of rockabilly. Fans of punk rock have adopted the shoe as a fashion trend since the late 1970s and many popular punk rock bands, such as the Ramones, have supported the trend by wearing the sneakers. All-Stars became popular again in the '90s grunge culture, especially in the early '90s days of G-funk. There has been a recent re-adoption of them in modern emo and "gangsta" fashion. They have appeared in numerous films and videogames, as well as TV shows and commercials.

converse, sneakers, kedsDespite the major setbacks for Converse in recent times[citation needed], the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star is the most successful shoe in history, and has enjoyed recent popularity thanks to a resurgence of old school trends. By the turn of the 21st century, over 750 million pairs had been sold worldwide. They no longer seem to be worn by their original target market of basketball players (at least not in the professional sphere) who have moved on to more modern shoes, but instead they are now marketed to the mainstream teenager. Some are so enthusiastic about the sneakers that they have a vast, ever-growing collection.

Since the turn of the century, particularly since 2005, Converse sneakers have become increasingly popular, with a growing market. Originally seen as being worn by those in the rock music scene, the market is growing with various, younger scenes, some based on a sub-culture; the Chuck Taylors are also becoming more popular with the pop music scene and fashion in general. Many Chuck Taylor owners are those who have owned the shoes in the past, and most own more than one pair, as recently many more colors are now produced than before. One other place in which the shoe is quite popular is in the sport of powerlifting, where the flat soles of the shoe make for a more stable base than normal styles of sneakers whose heel is usually thicker than the toe of the shoe, and which often have cushioning that absorbs and therefore wastes some of the force exerted to move the weight. Many powerlifters state the lack of elevation in the heel provides better support during squats and deadlifts. Moreover, the lack of elevation reduces the range of motion during the deadlift, often allowing more weight to be lifted by shortening the distance the barbell must be moved.

Chuck Taylors and fashion

Chuck Taylors saw another upswing in popularity in the early 1990s. Some may attribute this growing trend to a higher awareness of such fashions as grunge -- an outgrowth of some of the same rock-oriented youth cultures that have kept an affinity for the shoes since (at least) the late '70s/early '80s punk and new wave eras.

The recent increases in numbers of colors may also have led to the market for Chuck Taylors growing, due to various owner- or factory-based customizations of the shoe through color, use of stylized shoelaces, and through drawing or writing on the rubberized parts. The customization of Chuck Taylors is highly popular with the rock scene, especially, but not limited to, teenage girls, with many drawing/writing on the shoes, putting mismatching laces in the shoes, or wearing odd shoes (often two differently colored Chuck Taylors) -- all styles fairly common among wearers of the shoes over the past three decades. However, the original trend of wearing the low-rise shoes (in white) and writing on the rubberized part can be traced back to early as 1972, with the height of the fashion amongst junior high school girls being between 1973-1975. In addition to writing on the shoes, young girls in some areas also interlaced ordinary jingle bells onto the laces, making jingling sounds whenever they walked down the corridors of their local junior high schools.

Although Chuck Taylors are, along with Dr. Martens, still closely associated with punk fashion, punks have been the target of criticism for wearing a shoe that is ultimately manufactured by Nike, a company that has been accused of producing their shoes in third-world "sweatshops" (since 1998). Because of Nike's alleged practices, some see wearing Converse shoes as being at odds with punk's general association with left-wing politics, particularly anarchism and some forms of revolutionary socialism. Many punks now wear sweatshop-free imitations, such as those made by the Blackspot Anticorporation or No Sweat Apparel, so as to avoid such an ideological conflict. One can recognize a pair of pre-Nike era All-Stars by the "Made in U.S.A."-marking found in the heels of the American made All-Stars, but this part of the heel patch usually wears out somewhat quickly.

1 comment:

Deniz said...

Interesting stuff on the history of Converse!

Feels like a good add-on to Pabuc!

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