BY KEVIN KENDALL
The best-selling shoe of all time was popularized by an American hall-of-fame basketball player—and his name isn’t Michael Jordan.
Instead, it was a player who retired half a decade ago, Charles “Chuck” Taylor, who is credited with turning Converse All-Star shoes into an iconic brand of footwear. Taylor, an All-Star forward, won over 700 games playing for the New York Celtics.
Years after Taylor’s retirement, people are still sporting the popular shoes.
University of Mary Washington junior Allison Crerie owns multiple pairs. She trades her current pair of green Converse “Chuck Taylor” All-Stars for a worn gray pair.
“I swear these used to be navy blue or something,” said Crerie.
The widely worn Converse “Chuck Taylor” All-Stars have been in existence since the early 1900s. The shoes gained notoriety in the 1920s, when America saw industrial league basketball player Taylor wear his shoe of choice to every single game.
The league disbanded in 1929, but not before Taylor joined the Converse shoe company to travel across the country advertising the shoes. Converse soon placed his name on the ankle patch of the shoes, and by the early 1940s almost every team in the country sported the logo.
70 years later, the shoes continue to sell as well as they did in Taylor’s time. Through 2006, over 750 million pairs have been sold worldwide, and, according to Converse, 60% of all Americans have owned a pair of Chuck Taylor’s at some point within their lives.
Crerie couldn’t own just one pair of the sporty shoes.
“I actually have three pairs,” said Crerie. “They’re cool because they’re old-school, and they’re pretty much usable at any time. There aren’t a whole lot of things you can’t do while wearing Chucks.”
Crerie even got her sister, Nicole, involved in the Chuck Taylor phenomenon.
“Allison got me into them about six months ago and now I can’t stand wearing anything else,” says Senior Nicole Crerie. “They’re really just simple, ‘chill’ shoes.”
The All-Star shoe is commonly identified by the ankle patch, which features a large star on it. They typically have a beige rubber bottom and toe guard, with canvas sides and tongue.
When originally released, Chuck Taylor’s featured only six colors: white, optical white, red, black, navy blue, and monochrome black canvas material. They also only came in the high-top style. Today, there are hundreds of possible color combinations, with several different styles and lacing options.
“I prefer the unlaced low-tops. You can just slip them on and off, like flip-flops,” said Nicole.
Converse decided to create more customization options about six years ago in order to boost their business. The company almost folded in 1999 after declaring bankruptcy. After owning over 80% of the shoe business, their sales dwindled due to the death of Chuck Taylor in 1969 and a surge in competing shoe companies like Nike, Reebok, Adidas, and New Balance.
In 2001, Nike bought out the company and decided to resurrect the business. Staying true to the original style, Nike added more customization options for customers. These options were showcased on the company’s website, www.converse.com.
Online shoppers can choose everything from the size, cut, and color of their shoe. Today, over 30,000 pairs are sold each week worldwide.
UMW graduate Kenny Allwine bought his first pair of Chuck Taylor shoes from the online website.
“It’s pretty cool,” he says. “There’s like a million color combinations and styles, and I can never decide which pair I want. I really wish they had thought of this sooner.”
However, older generations of Chuck Taylor-wearers might hope that we don’t forget about the original styles. Stafford resident Earl Davis, 44, recalls his experience with the shoes and their impact on his life.
“I’ll never forget: I wore a pair of navy blue Chuck Taylor All-Stars to my high school senior prom,” Davis said. “They were a hit. Everyone loved them then.”
Some things never change.