Reference Points: Understanding the Converse All Stars
Arguably the most recognizable shoe to mankind, the Converse All Star was the true pioneer of athletic shoes. Its early prototype in 1917 paved the way for the Converse Rubber Shoe Company to continue developing rubber-soled footwear for basketball players to feel comfortable when they’re playing.
The technology back then may be far ahead from now, but Charles “Chuck” Taylor’s ideas way back in 1921 were far ahead of its time.
Complaining about pain and blisters when wearing shoes, Chuck Taylor joined Converse and convinced them to create basketball-specific footwear that catered to the needs of athletes - flexibility and traction.
He then went on to become the brand’s salesman and lead promoter. And the rest is history - Converse All Stars were the main basketball sneakers worn across America as Chuck worked his magic to promote the shoe.
Literally a century later, Converse is now a subsidiary of Nike. But the Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars have never been forgotten and took on a whole new identity as a lifestyle shoe. Now with updated versions to stay on the sneaker radar and provide a new level of comfort, 100 years after its birth.
Take a look back at the Converse All Star’s history in this complete guide.
Converse’s Origins : More than a hundred years before
It all started with Marquis Mills founding a shoe manufacturing company called “Converse Rubber Shoe Company” in 1908. The brand specialized in creating rubber-soled shoes that provided durable and supportive footwear for people of all ages; men, women, and children. You name it, they craft it.
It was a pretty good start for the brand. It only took them two years before they started manufacturing shoes every single day. And for the next few years, Converse had a new plan in mind - this time for athletes.
By 1915, Converse started creating athletic shoes that utilized a rubber sole that grips the hardwood. And a canvas upper that’s lightweight and more flexible than the likes of leather.
Prior to the All Stars, the brand released various athletic sneakers. The most notable model was the Converse Non-Skid, it featured a canvas upper and the same rubber traction pattern used on the then non-existent Converse All Star. It’s worn by top basketball teams during that era.
There’s the Converse Big Nine, meant to be an everyday activity shoe that featured a leather upper and a diamond-like grid traction pattern (which is similar to the diamonds seen on the All Star’s forefoot sole.
Lastly, there was the Converse Sure Foot. Identical in exterior style with the former models, but its unique “suction sole” was meant to grip the basketball courts well.
The image below is one of the Converse ads found in a January 1920 of the Boys’ Life Magazine.
Charles Hollis “Chuck” Taylor was an American semi-professional basketball player who began his playing career in 1919 as a player of the Columbus Commercials. He was only seventeen years old.
Chuck then went on to play for more semi-professional teams as he juggled his career in basketball and as Converse’s salesman during the 1920s.
He was hired by Converse as a salesman in 1921 when he visited the brand’s office in Chicago. Chuck suggested various improvements to the company’s current basketball shoe selections which the brand gladly welcomed. All of his ideas were tested on the Converse All Star prototype and eventually made it to the final product. The main features of the shoe focused on flexibility and support that make players last an entire basketball game without getting leg and foot soreness right after.
The result? A high-top shoe featuring a canvas upper with a rubber toe cap on the forefoot for added support. The Converse logo is placed on the medial side of the shoe, together with two metal lace loops that serve as ventilation holes for breathability. Metal lace loops run until the top ankle collar.
The thick rubber midsole is reinforced on the forefoot, while the rubber sole sports a diamond traction pattern for all-surface grip.
Chuck Taylor also became a promoter for Converse wherein he conducted basketball clinics to teach people the fundamentals of basketball, at the same time promoting his All Star masterpiece.
The product promotion went on for the rest of the early and mid-20s. Then in the 1926-1927 season of the basketball league where Chuck plays, he became the player-manager for the All-Stars, a team based in Chicago, Illinois that Converse had sponsored to promote their basketball shoes.
The Converse All Star’s phenomenal on-court success continued as it became the primary shoe of choice in the Olympics and even the United States Armed Forces.
Come the 1970s, its on-court prowess started to slow down as new brands were up to dethrone the All Stars. Converse was also ready to move on as they unveiled the basketball-specific Converse Pro Leather, notably worn by NBA legend Julius Erving during the late 70s.
The last time the All Stars saw an NBA floor was in the 1985-1986 NBA season. But that only meant that the shoe is ready to take on a whole new identity away from athletics - this time as an iconic casual shoe that was made even more popular by celebrities and artists.
Embracing the Modern
It’s a shoe that is just completely hard to forget. Its simple and classic vibe is so timeless to the point that, even 100 years later, it’s still present on the feet of the new generation. It shifted from being the primary basketball footwear choice of just about anybody, to becoming a cultural lifestyle shoe worn by the biggest celebrities and hip-hop artists. The Converse All Star never lost its appeal, but it’s willing to upgrade and be equipped with the present-day shoe technology to reach its maximum potential.
Chuck Taylor All Star 70’
The Chuck Taylor All Stars were still in the sneaker rotation of many people. But a decade later in 2013, the brands decided to switch things up and bring a retro vibe to the shoe - the Chuck Taylor All Star 70’ was unveiled to pay tribute to the thick canvas upper material and black heel patch seen on the 60s and 70s version of the shoe. It also had a smaller rubber toe cap and an Ortholite insole for extra support and cushioning.
Converse Chuck Taylor All Star II
In a move that nobody would ever expect, in 2015, the Converse All Star II was launched. It retained most of the look of the original, only upgrading the materials used and a modern cushioning for better comfort. The second Chuck Taylor All Star featured a soft, suede lining and a canvas upper that made it even lighter compared to its predecessor. The most notable upgrade is the use of Lunarlon drop-in midsoles, Lunarlon was Nike’s most popular foam cushioning until React and ZoomX took over.
Some variations featured a knit upper, following the trend of sock-like materials on just about every shoe that have released during that time period.
Converse utilizing Nike tech? What could go wrong? It had everything it needed to match the current features that most lifestyle shoes have.
After about two years of poor sales, the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star II ceased productions. It just didn’t have the timeless trait of the original.
Converse All Star Modern
Another one of the forgotten All Star models with a short-lived release. It featured a premium knit upper with Hyperfuse reinforcements for durability, the TPU-fuse and neoprene lining add structure to the lightweight shoe. It sits atop a full-length Phylon sole which is one of Nike’s commonly used foam cushioning.
One of the modern tech systems offered by Converse, the CX Foam made its way to the Converse All Stars when the brand released the Chuck Taylor All Star CX.
It featured a CX Stretch Canvas which is an upgraded type of canvas that makes it easier to wear on and off. The most notable feature is the CX Foam housed within the rubber midsole and a new rubber outsole for the ultimate comfort.
Most Expensive Converse All Stars
The hype never dies down, even with the century-old Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars. So here are some of the most sought after pairs that released in limited fashion, making them a precious gem for whoever gets a hold of them. Not to mention that their resell price in the aftermarket makes them even more valuable.
1. Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star Vulcanized Hi Off-White
1. First on the list is one of the highly coveted Chuck Taylor All Stars ever. Mostly because it was so limited and was part of the highly anticipated Off-White “The Ten” collection by famous designer Virgil Abloh. And partly because it has such a unique construction never before seen in any Chuck Taylors.
Featuring a translucent ripstop upper with typical Virgil Abloh Off-White trademarks, the shoe also features a red zip tie tag on the left pair and a “Vulcanized” label on the lateral midsoles.
2. Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star 70s Hi Kith x Coca Cola White-
A 2018 Kith exclusive, this rendition of the All Stars feature a collab with Coca-Cola that is embroidered all over the rear panel of the shoe. The denim upper comes in White with a distressed inner lining that adds more detail. The rubber toe cap and the entire midsole arrives in Sail White, with a KITH label on the lateral forefoot.
A removable Coca-Cola patch that says “It’s the real thing” covers the iconic Converse logo on the medial side. A rather unique addition to the already - ”refreshing” dress-up.
It was released last August 2018 with other colorways of the Kith x Coca-Cola Converse All Star collaboration.
Converse’s long history brought an unforgettable sneaker that is forever immortalized in any generation. What started off as a basic basketball shoe that dominated the entire 1930s to 1970s fell off from the basketball shoe charts but reinvented itself as a fashion icon in lifestyle and hip-hop cultures.
Chuck Taylor’s ideas revolutionized the standards for the first basketball shoe and were the pioneer for promoting shoes that offered enough support and protection so players can play their best. Juggling his career both as a player and as Converse’s primary promoter of the Chuck Taylor All Stars, it was all worth it in the end as he spearheaded what is considered to be one of the most revolutionary shoes in the history of sneakers.
It may be outdated nowadays, but its influence and impact are still clearly present in the modern technology of today’s world.