OG of OGs: History of Converse Chuck Taylors

history of converse chuck taylors

History of Converse Chuck Taylors

We dive into the history of Converse Chuck Taylors. However, and before anything else, it is worth pointing out that the image of Converse today is fascinating to contrast with its past.

Today, thinking about the brand brings to mind the look of the basic sneaker. In fact, there may not be a more replicable aesthetic than that of Converse.

It’s clean, simple, and doesn’t present any sort of fluff or pomp. Those characteristics are part of what makes Converse sneakers some of the most popular of all time. Furthermore, this popularity extends to a global scale.

tyler the creator x converse one star

Converse history timeline:

The sneakers start off as a matter of function, but lasts long enough to be part of all sorts of movements Here, we go back to its roots via the history of Converse Chuck Taylors.

Of course, most of the interest in this involves exploring the brand’s background. And it’s understandable. Converse sneakers are not exactly the stuff of hype and legend in the current market.

But, both the history of Converse Chuck Taylors and the brand are relevant. The stories have plenty of brands both in the present and the future to learn from.

So, now that we understand the importance of it all, where do we begin?

Chuck Taylor All Star High

The first Converse shoe

As always, this sort of discussion feels incoherent if we don’t start from the very beginning. Converse begins its journey in the sneaker market as a popular maker of rubber sole shoes. Frankly, that was the entire selling point, folks.

This might come as a surprise to us today, but 1908 isn’t an age that is rife with footwear innovation. So, it is in 1908 that Converse begins to really kick off its business, the highest demand is for durable shoes.

Specifically, workers who toiled in manual labor of all sorts needed sneakers they could stand all day in. Enter Converse. Initially, the brand decides to test the waters a bit and make their shoes on a seasonal basis.

It didn’t take long before Converse decided to have their employees work year round. Of course, part of this was due to the massive popularity of the standard Converse offering. But, it branches out shortly after this.

Moving forward into the 20th century, basketball takes hold of the United States. Large chunks of the country suddenly find themselves enjoying and participating in the new sport.

Thought it’s first meant to help the Winter months pass by until football season, basketball becomes a profession of its very own.

Styling Orange All Stars

Converse Spotting Opportunity

Therein lies the first opportunity for market domination. Even though shoe companies aren’t raking in the same big dollars they do today, finding a footwear niche means big business.

In this part of the 20th century, the moneymaker is basketball sneaker design. The sport growing reputation means there’s a feverish need for more gear, shoes in particular.

Luckily for Converse, the brand would come across arguably the most historically famous sponsoring athlete of all time.

An obscure name in most young NBA circles, Chuck Taylor starts his career as a pro basketball player with the Akron Firestones. The rather average looking athlete then makes a key decision.

The history of Converse’s Chuck starts right there. The Chuck Taylor basketball shoes were about to become a reality.

To set some context, it’s important to understand just how different things are in the U.S. in these earlier years. Professional basketball is yet to become the financial gold mine that it is today.

Consequently, almost every pro player at this time is also holding down at least a second job, just to make ends meet.

For the man known as Chuck, that other job was a sales rep for Converse in their earliest times. He eventually joins the sales force on a permanent basis after falling in love with their work, particularly the All-Star model.

When he joins Converse, the sales figures are anything but exciting, but the All-Star is the first wide-scale production of a basketball-specific sneaker in footwear history. Taylor works with the brand to further that design and really set off its reputation.

quilted converse chuck taylors

Converse is Chuckin’ it

And that is how the history of Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars begins. The shoe officially becomes the Chuck Taylor All Star after Converse decides to slap some branding on the sides, including Taylor’s signature.

Eventually, the brand’s star logo becomes synonymous with the former Akron Firestone. The partnership only further benefits from the fact that Taylor’s reputation in professional hoops grows extremely quickly.

His love for the game and Converse’s shoes take him all over the country to promote the game and its gear. In fact, it was Taylor’s novel marketing ideas that earn interest from Converse, to begin with.

He eventually is nominated in the Basketball Hall of Fame and is now forever known as the “ambassador of basketball.”

The history of Converse Chuck Taylors sees plenty of contributions from its namesake. But, at the same time, the man is responsible for inspiring a lot more.

Being the ambassador for a game that was seen as a semi-popular way to kill some time is a tough task.

He may not start with the intent of making basketball a country-wide fascination, but he succeeds in doing so. In fact, Taylor’s marketing approach inspires both the game’s popularity but a standard commercial practice.

He would put on several basketball camps to raise awareness of both the shoe and basketball. This is not unlike what major brands such as Nike, adidas, and Under Armour do for their sneakers every year.

converse modern collection
The Modern Collection, via Sneakersnstuff

Inspiring the Present

Additionally, Taylor is part of another major contribution to the game. The thinking with the Chuck Taylors centers around designing a basketball sneaker that was fairly stretchy and provided durable shock absorption.

That may not seem like very much right now, but anticipating those needs is a huge deal in the early 20th century. In today’s market, the players know specifically what they want to see from their basketball sneakers.

Back then, on the other hand, no one is very clear on the specifics. Converse’s anticipation, jumping on this niche market, is part of what Taylor saw so much potential in.

Several innovations today – Flyknit, Lunarlon – see roots in the older Converse design philosophies.

That’s the sort of thing that really adds significance to the brand. The fact that this simple sneaker, a design that looks like it takes minutes to finish, is so inspirational. Sure, the industry has come a long way in terms of its tech and aesthetics.

But, the roots are almost undeniable. So, the next time you clock some Black Chuck Taylors – let’s be honest, you’ll probably see a few pairs today alone – think about how Nike’s smartest sneakers take inspiration from it.

converse 70s collection

Olympic Ambitions

The history of Converse Chuck Taylors is even more impressive when you throw Team USA into the mix. In 1936, the partnership between the brand and its most influential endorser is at a point of increasing popularity.

In fact, just about anything with the Converse name on it flies off shelves. It thus makes sense that the partnership would move on to some bigger things. That year, Taylor puts his touches on a White high-top edition of the All Star.

This model features all of the performance aspects players fell in love with but adds some hints of patriotism. Blue and Red accents accompany the White base, providing the perfect look for Team USA. 1936 is also the first year of action for Olympic basketball, which is fantastic timing.

Those forces of coincidence come together to make that year’s new Converse All Star release one of the most memorable of all time. This White high-top model is arguably as popular as any other look from Converse today.

converse 70s groove
Feat. Yara Shahidi, via Feel Free Artz

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

Due to their longstanding history, one would assume that Converse is overdue for retirement. But, fortunately for us, that doesn’t look to be the case anytime soon.

After a purchase by Nike, Converse’s iconic sneaker line is not only being preserved but advanced as well. The All Star, in particular, is alive and well.

Nike’s tech, including Lunarlon cushioning, has seen models such as the All Star II continue the history of Converse Chuck Taylors.

We even see the brand experiment with aspects such as weatherproof uppers including nubuck and suede. On the cultural front, Converse remains on the minds of artists and rappers. The brand counts rapper Vince Staples as one of their more recent collaborators.

For sneaker fans from all over, it’s lovely to see one of the most iconic shoes of all time continue to flourish. The contributions of the All Star to the wider footwear culture are hard to overexaggerate.

The smallest details seem to be a starting point for some of the most sophisticated design elements of modern sneakers. Thanks to the support of the Swoosh, we’re fortunate enough to be enjoying more of the history of Converse Chuck Taylors for years to come.

While you’re here, make sure to also check the latest pristine version of the Converse One Star right here.