Chuck Taylor All Star turns 100!


The Converse All Star has been around for a decade now and without a decrease in growth, shows no signs of slowing down. Having survived two world wars and even bankruptcy in 2001 the Converse brand has firmly established itself in homes across the globe. Focusing on South Africa, the All Star remains one of the most popular sneaker of all times. With total overall sales surpassing most competitors in industry, it is also one of the most successful- oddly enough without a change in design since its inception. While other manufacturers have constantly adjusted sneaker designs to fit new trends, the timeless design of the All Star remained the same all throughout its 100 years of existence. And even though different ranges had been launched, the canvas design remains the most popular choice, portraying an image of authenticity, originality and of course brand loyalty.

A Brief History – The inclusion of Chuck Taylor into the brand

Without delving too much into the archives; the Converse Rubber Shoe Company was created in 1908, by Marques Mills Converse. In 1917 the forerunner to the modern day All Star was designed and manufactured as a high performance athletic shoe for basketball players. What started off slow initially, soon flourished and sales of the All Star dominated the footwear industry. The surge was mainly due to Charles Taylor who had taken a liking to the sneaker and signed on as a salesman and rep. As a famous basketball player, he was noticed sporting it at games and travelled throughout the country on advertising campaigns. It wasn’t long before other basket ball players followed suite- securing it a position as an industry standard. In 1932 due to Chuck Taylors dedication, his name was added to the insignia logo, and the sneaker became known as the Chuck Taylor All Star.

Negative Connotations in South Africa

The sneaker has always been a popular choice amongst the youth of South Africa. Particular in the non-white ‘locations’ of the apartheid era, the shoe was worn not only for its versatility but also for its low cost. With its wide reach almost everyone had a pair and its popularity amongst teenagers in specific, contributed to shaping its stereotypical image of rebellion. Coupled with its light weight and strong grip, scaling walls was less tedious than when wearing bulky sneakers making it the favourite choice of sneaker for petty theives. Added to the mix, the infamous gangster rappers of the 90’s who were frequently spotted in a pair, cemented its image of being an iconic symbol of hip hop gangster culture. In recent years however, the negative connotations have somewhat died down, as the Converse All Star became a popular accessory in more affluent suburbs of South Africa.

The upgrade – 98 years later…

In 2015; for the first time in 98 years, the All Star was given a facelift. Nike who purchased the Converse company in 2003 for $305 million led the way and this is what they’ve done –

  • Installing of a Nike Lunarlon sockliner for cushioning and arch support for added comfort.
  • A Foam-padded collar to ease the rubbing of the Chuck against your ankle.
  • Non-slip tongue to prevent the toungue from slipping away to the side of the sneaker.
  • An embroidered All Star patch – an upgrade from the cheap looking classic decal.
  • Monochrome matte eyelets and matching laces to prevent the laces turning black by the silver eyelits sported on the old Chucks.

Final word

With this year marking the 100th anniversary of the All Star, this all time classic sneaker continues its legacy into a new decade as one of the best sneakers of all time. Whilst prices have significantly increased since when I was growing up (I remember a time when they were selling for R150 a pair), its current price range of R700 makes it a cost effective alternative to other high priced branded footwear. And whilst other manufacturers may have produced a cheaper alternative, their aura of authenticity will forever be impaired by the true and original Chuck Taylor All Star made by Converse.