You already know that these go-to sneaks make any outfit look good. But did you also know that they helped Larry Bird play through bone spurs, were a favorite of The Outsiders, and once served as the official sneaker of the Air Force? Converse not only led to the bleeding of casual style into areas previously reserved for formal wear (rockin' Chucks with suits and tuxedos); they have a compelling history deeply rooted in popular culture and defining American fashion. So sit back, lace up those Chucks, and prepare to gain some knowledge about these iconic kicks.
1. There is a reason to buy 1,547 different pairs
Joshua Mueller holds the Guinness World Record
for the largest collection of Converse shoes with 1,546 different pairs -- enough to wear every day for over four years. And, “He goes to great lengths to keep them looking their best, wearing plastic bags on his feet in order to keep them clean when visiting dirty places”. Peep Mueller's whole collection on his Flickr page
(literally EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.).
2. Capitalism had a heavy hand in creating Converse...
Marquis Mills Converse opened the Converse Rubber Shoe Company in Malden, Massachusetts in 1908 and made winterized footwear. As a way to increase profits and keep employees working year-round, they began producing athletic shoes.
3. ...and the Converse All Star
Their initial foray in the athletic realm were tennis shoes. But the rising popularity of basketball led to their first basketball specific shoe: the Converse All-Star, which was released in 1917.
4. They turned a first overall NBA Draft pick into a Grandmama
Converse are known for their odd advertisements.
One of their most iconic ads is Larry Johnson's “Grandmama”. But playing the role of an able-bodied grandmother is not what lured LJ, the number one pick of the ‘91 Draft, to sign a million dollar deal with Converse. The original pitch that sold Johnson was to have himself be “created” by Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, Frankenstein style
. They were going to argue over his name, eventually arriving at a mutually agreed Larry Johnson. But four months after signing the deal, execs told Johnson
, "We're not going to do that commercial. ... We're going to put you in a dress and a wig". Talk about a bummer.
5. Charles H. Taylor abandoned Akron way before LeBron made it fashionable
Charles “Chuck” H. Taylor was playing for the Akron Firestones in 1921. Instead of taking his talents to South Beach, he left Akron and joined the Converse workforce to coach/play for the Converse All Stars (the companies’ industrial league team). Over the years he made numerous design changes to the All Star shoe. In 1932, Converse added "Chuck Taylor" to the Converse All Star name.
6. The official sneaker of the U.S. Air Force
During World War II, Taylor served as a captain in the Air Force. His shoe followed him and became a favorite of soldiers during training. The kicks went on to become
the official sneaker of the United States Armed Forces.
7.They helped Larry Bird deal with bone spurs
In the '70s and '80s Converse was making custom shoes for Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Led Zeppelin, and Pearl Jam. Mike Blandini, who worked at Converse for 49 years, said, “They used to come down to the facility to see how we made shoes for them. Special canvas All-Stars, knee highs, you name it… I made shoes for them personally. I made casts of their feet and figured out where their problems were. Larry Bird had bone spurs on his Achilles' tendon, and I had to accommodate for his pain”.
8. The optical white colorway was an Olympic novelty
The optical white Chuck
, which is one of the most popular models, was released as a patriotic gesture for the 1936 Olympics.
9. They've won a gold medal
In 1984 Converse was the official footwear sponsor of the Los Angeles Olympics and the U.S. Men's basketball team won gold while donning them. (FYI the man on the right is Barkley in '84).
10. There's a good chance that your parents (and possibly grandparents) rocked 'em
With over 800 million pairs sold to date, and an estimation that 60 percent of Americans own or have owned a pair during their lifetime, the Chuck Taylor All Star is the most popular selling basketball shoe of all time.
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