The Converse All-Star is Born
After being founded in 1908, Converse made a name for itself in 1917 by releasing its first-ever performance basketball sneaker, known then simply as the "All-Star." Made up of a canvas upper and rubber sole, the shoe has remained largely unchanged since its debut. While it would be a few more years before the sneaker really took off, the blueprint for the iconic silhouette was laid.
Charles Taylor Wears the Converse All-Star for the Very First Time
Charles Taylor, better known as "Chuck," was an All-American high school basketball player at Columbus High School in Indiana who acquired an affinity for Converse's performance basketball sneaker upon first lacing them up in 1918. While Taylor would never go on to play at the NBA or college level, his mark on the game of basketball is undeniable. IN 1969, Taylor was actually inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for his contributions to the game. Among his fellow inductees in 1969 were legendary coaches Red Auerbach and Adolph Rupp. Who knew that a simple canvas and rubber sneaker would have such an impact on the game?
Chuck Taylor Becomes the First-Ever Player Endorser
In need of a job, Taylor hit up the Converse sales offices in Chicago, where Bob Pletz hired him on the spot. Taylor would provide insight and introduce innovations to the sneaker to enhance the shoe's flexibility and support. In being hired, Taylor became America's first player-endorser of a sneaker. Could you imagine a world where there was no such thing as Air Jordans or LeBron 12s? Without Chuck Taylor, it very well may exist.
Converse Adds Chuck Taylor's Signature to the All-Stars
Ever wonder where the term signature sneaker came from? In 1923, Converse added Chuck Taylor's signature to its performance basketball sneaker, officially renaming them the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Taylor would then set out on a tour across America promoting the sneaker while teaching the game of basketball.
Fun fact: Despite the brand using his name for the sneakers, Chuck Taylor never saw any type of royalties from Converse.
Basketball Makes It's Olympic Debut, as Do the Chuck Taylor All-Stars
Basketball debuted as an Olympic sport at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Outfitted in Chuck Taylor All-Stars, the United States of America defeated Canada by a final score of 19-8 to capture the gold medal. The championship game was actually played outdoors in the rain on a clay court, explaining the unusually low score. Converse sneakers would go on to appear in the final medal round at every Olympics until 1984.
Oregon and Ohio State Both Wear Chuck Taylor All-Stars for the First-Ever NCAA National Championship Game
The Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star quickly spread throughout the college basketball ranks. When the first-ever NCAA National Championship Game was staged in 1939, both Oregon and Ohio State laced up in the performance basketball sneaker. Fittingly, Oregon, a school who would later being heavily influenced by Nike, took home the inaugural title by defeating the Buckeyes 46-33.
Wilt Chamberlain Scores 100 Points Wearing the Chuck Taylor All-Stars
On March 2, 1962, Philadelphia's Wilt Chamberlain set the NBA single-game scoring record by dropping 100 points on the New York Knicks. What was Wilt's shoe of choice for the momentous occasion? The Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star, of course. The closest anyone would come to eclipsing Chamberlain's untouchable record came in 2006, when Kobe Bryant scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. In case you were wondering, Mamba was wearing the Nike Zoom Kobe I for his scoring outburst.
Converse Introduces a Low Cut All-Star Known as the Oxford
While it's common nowadays for signature sneakers lines to release both high and low editions, take the Nike Kobe 9 for example, it would be quite some time before Converse released a low-cut version of its performance basketball shoe. The term "oxford" is footwear lingo for low-cut. In 1962, Converse debuted its oxford model of the Chuck Taylor All-Star. The sneaker quickly became a favorite of professional players, increasing the shoe's popularity. An interesting trend started developing on the west coast, where the sneaker began representing the region's laid-back and relaxed lifestyle. As all trends tend to do, the fashion statement would eventually migrate to other areas of the country.
Converse Adds Seven New Colorways to the Chuck Taylor All-Star
Prior to 1966, the only two colors the Chuck Taylor All-Stars were available in were black and white. Converse livened things up a bit in 1966 by adding seven new colorways into the mix in order to coordinate with different teams' color schemes. Today, Chuck Taylors come in just about every color (and print) imaginable, contributing to the sneaker's widespread popularity.
Rocky Runs Through the Streets of Philadelphia in the Chuck Taylor All-Stars
It's fitting that one of the most iconic scenes in movie history would feature one of the most iconic sneakers in footwear history. In the 1976 film Rocky, protagonist Rocky Balboa famously ran through the streets of Philadelphia wearing the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star. The inclusion of the sneaker in the movie meant that audiences would see the Chuck Taylor for generations to come.
The Sex Pistols Give the Chuck Taylor All-Star Some Punk Rock Attitude
Contrary to popular belief, The Ramones actually wore Pro-Keds and not Chuck Taylors. It was England's the Sex Pistols that actually made the sneaker popular in punk rock circles, beginning the shoe's exodus from the sporting world. The Chuck Taylor All-Stars would go on to infiltrate many subcultures in the coming years, making the sneaker just as popular with musicians than it was with athletes.
Kurt Cobain Wears Chuck Taylor All-Stars to the MTV Video Music Awards
Already a hit on the punk rock scene, the Chuck Taylor All-Stars joined the grunge movement when Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain famously wore a beat up pair to the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards. Along with flannel shirts, the worn out, slightly dirty sneakers would go on to be a symbol of the grunge music emanating from the Pacific Northwest.
Nike Purchases Converse
By the time the new millennium rolled around, Converse had been losing ground to competing sneaker brands. In 2003, Nike stepped in and purchased the company, ensuring that the Chuck Taylor All-Stars' legacy would live on. Under the Swoosh, Converse would release a signature baseball sneaker for Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade, which would be the first signature shoe put out by the brand since the Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Within a few years, D-Wade would jump ship to Jordan Brand, proving once again just how prolific the Chuck Taylor was.
Taylor Gang Records Launches
The Chuck Taylor All-Stars already enjoyed some hip-hop success thanks to rhymes from rappers like Snoop Dogg, The Game and Clipse, but in 2008 the sneaker received its biggest rap endorsement to date with the founding of Wiz Khalifa's Taylor Gang Records. Initially the name of his crew and fan base, the name Taylor Gang is derived from Wiz's love of Chuck Taylor All-Stars, as well as Taylor Allerdice High School in Pittsburgh where he attended. Artists currently signed to Khalifa's imprint include Juicy J, Ty Dolla $ign and Chevy Woods.
Converse Sues to Protect Its Legacy
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. By 2014, Converse had enough of the impostors and filed 22 different lawsuits for copy right infringement. The brand alleged that companies like Walmart, K-mart, and Skechers were releasing sneakers too similar to the Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Converse believed that it needed to stop the "explosion of knockoff activity" to protect the iconic sneaker's legacy. Imitations or not, it appears as if the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star will still be going strong for years to come.