Arguably one of the most iconic pieces of footwear ever to be worn, the Converse All-Star Chuck Taylors have been around for almost 100 years as they’ve been rocked by musical legends, hipsters, Olympic athletes, and everyone in between. Although the design of these “fish-heads” (so they were called in the 1970’s) has stayed virtually the same over the many years they’ve been manufactured, the statement and impact of this utilitarian footwear has certainly changed over the years. Take a look at the history of the quintessential American sneaker:

 

Before the Converse All-Star…

Organized sports and athletics existed long before the Converse All-Star sneaker emerged as the best option in active footwear. So what did people do before the company started manufacturing their iconic sneakers? Well, they wore these:

http://www.refinedguy.com/2013/05/29/20-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-converse-all-stars/#2

One of the original “Spalding” Basket Ball shoes advertisements (RefinedGuy.com)

 

 

That’s right, they wore these “Spalding” brand lace-up high top active dress shoes of sorts for “Basket Ball.” Spalding, the same company that now supplies the official game balls of the NBA, was the first company to pioneer the “gum” shoe-bottom grip technology that we now take for granted as we walk freely across slippery floors slide-free.

 

 

 


Early 1900’s and Chuck Taylor…

While Spalding was busy manufacturing shoes for the sport of “Basket Ball,” the Converse Rubber Corporation, which opened for business in 1908, supplied the American public with sturdy work boots and rain galoshes. It wasn’t until 1917 that they came out with the Converse All-Star:

 

http://www.refinedguy.com/2013/05/29/20-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-converse-all-stars/#4

Converse finally take the scene (RefinedGuy.com)

These athletic shoes were only intended for sports like volleyball and soccer at first; it seemed that Spalding had the basketball shoe market covered. However, a basketball player named Charles “Chuck” Taylor discovered these trusty shoes made with thick rubber soles and canvas uppers and liked them so much that he signed on with the company in 1921 as a traveling salesman, selling the shoes at basketball camps and spreading the craze all across America.

 

By the 1920’s, Charles Taylor had made the Converse All-Star basketball shoes the prototypical, go-to athletic shoes, and in 1932, his name “Chuck Taylor” was added to the Converse All-Star logo located on the iconic ankle patch.

 

The Olympics and beyond…

WWII era basketball team at Duke University (StyleKing.com)

WWII era basketball team at Duke University (StyleKing.com)

In the 1930’s, the company began the design for a white canvas shoe with subtle blue and red accents, instead of the standard black and white, for the Olympic team. In 1936, the first year Basketball was featured as an Olympic sport, the American team donned the iconic shoes for the first time, and from then on, “Chuck Taylors” were all the athletes wore for a very long time. (Olympians wore Converse Hi-Tops all the way into the 70’s). The Converse All-Star was an all-American shoe.

 

The 1940’s and 50’s…

The rubber tipped toe innovation came about in the 1940's. (StyleKing.com)

The rubber tipped toe innovation came about in the 1940’s. (StyleKing.com)

The uses for these utilitarian athletic shoes went beyond just basketball; the one and only Chuck Taylor served as a captain in the Air Force and coached regional basketball teams to boost morale, eventually making the Converse All-Star “Chuck Taylor” the official training shoe of the Armed Forces during WWII. This is when the rubber toe-guard that you now find at the tip of your shoes came into the model, making them more durable and sturdy.

In 1949, basketball became a prominent professional sport with the formation of the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the classic black and white shoe was established as an alternative to the monochromatic originals. By the 1950’s, Converse shoes were not only confined to basketball players and the military; the low-top Converse All-Stars became available as a more casual option for non-professional everyday activities and general life.

 

From then to now…

Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller in iconic Chuck Taylors (Tumblr.com)

Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller in iconic Chuck Taylors (Tumblr.com)

The black and white Hi-Top Converse All-Stars, the “Chuck Taylors” became a wardrobe staple for kids and adults throughout the 50’s. After a brief period of stagnation in the 60’s as other brands began to assert themselves following the death of Chuck Taylor, they re-emerged again in the 1980’s as the favored shoe in the angsty-teen uniform — look at any 80’s John Hughes film. Most importantly, you lived your life in those shoes, and we still do to this day. That is why we will always look to the fashion staple, the Converse All-Star, in an era of rapid change and uncertainty to remind ourselves of where we came from and where we are going. The Converse All-Star will forever be classic.

 

What do you think about this Converse All-Star timeline? Leave a response in the comments below or tweet at me @JenksUOhMeASoda