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The Converse All-Star is a unique sneaker. It is synonymous with sneaker culture, basketball, music, fine arts, street art and more. It is quite literally, an American staple. Sixty percent of Americans have owned a pair in their lifetime and it is the highest selling sneaker model in history.
Reading that you might imagine that a press event for the sneaker’s sequel would be a stuffy affair. I mean, we are talking about a billion-dollar sneaker. Even if the marketing at Converse is traditionally young and edgy, surely this sequel would be entirely business motivated, right? Who wants to sit through two days of sales projections and pie-charts?
Converse is the very first company I have ever encountered whose brand identity is much more than a magazine ad or TV spot. To put it simply, Converse is punk rock.
See, punk rock is a genre that developed in the 1970s, so the Chuck Taylor is actually quite a bit older. Rooted in garage rock, punk largely avoided all mainstream tendencies. It was about stripping away instrumentation. Punk rock disregarded polish and adapted a DIY ethic and aesthetic.
We know that the last 98 years has seen the Chuck Taylor embraced and engulfed by the punk movement as well as several other creative, rebellious and free spirited subcultures. What I expected to find was that Converse’s punk ethos was merely a corporate irony. That Converse would be more like other large businesses, happy to collect large profits from their fan base without regard for that fan base. You know the type, fat cats, counting dollars as the “rebels” bought their product at times in “protest” of their own parent company, Nike.
That is not at all the case.
The Chuck Taylor II is a passion project. The people who worked on this project were passionate about it and the customers were passionate for it too. During the development of the Chuck II, Converse went on tour with rock bands, spoke with writers, painters, tattoo artists, and every other type of modern creative you can think of. The resounding message of their research?
“Don’t fuck up the Chuck. Dude, seriously.”
Converse didn’t take the most recognizable name in sneakers and try to apply it to some, new, modern basketball performance model (the Chuck Taylor was originally a basketball specific sneaker, in fact, the first). They didn't try any gimmicky application of the name to a larger product line. They didn’t force the sequel into the $100 and above price range that nearly the entire current sneaker market demands.
They simply focused on two things; a Chuck Taylor II that delivered more and “not fucking up.”
They nailed it. The new sneaker is just as much a Chuck as the first. It’s “classic” in all of the same ways. Now, it is simply more premium with its beautiful design details; embossed eyelets, embroidered ankle patch, textured pinstripes, and gore webbed tongue. And it’s more comfortable with its new Nike Lunarlon drop-in midsole, memory foam padding, micro-suede lining, premium canvas, and improved fit.
At just $75 for the Hi Top and $70 for the Low Top the sneaker is still “cheap” by today’s standards and Converse is still encouraging you to destroy, rebuild, spray paint, skate, and make them your own in any other way you can think of.
So no, there was not a single pie-chart. Just a great sneaker, made better. What did we do with the rest of the two-day trip? We checked out the new Converse headquarters, complete with their state-of-the-art recording studio “Rubber Tracks,” where they give up and coming musicians free recording time. We took a look through a ton of local artwork they have collected, which is auctioned off annually so that the proceeds can fund art initiatives and so that they have room to feature even more emerging artists. Oh, and Converse got us drunk and took us to a concert… because, of course.