Converse’s iconic sneaker, the Chuck Taylor All Star, is getting an upgrade. The new sneaker, dubbed Chuck II, features better shock absorption, a padded non-slip tongue, micro-suede lining, and a sturdier canvas made of Tencel, a high-tech fabric made from wood pulp.
The Converse Rubber Shoe Company made the first All Stars in 1917. The simple cotton and rubber sneakers were originally aimed at serious athletes playing soccer and netball, an early version of basketball. By the 1960s, about 90 percent of college and professional basketball players wore All Stars, and the sneakers accounted for 80 percent of the consumer sneaker market.
For decades, the sneakers were a counterculture fashion statement, popular with musicians, artists, and writers. Rockers like the Ramones and Kurt Cobain wore them, along with writers like Hunter S. Thompson. The brand was adopted by skateboarders in the’ 70s, adding to its street cred. The Rolling Stones made Chuck Taylors the official sneaker of their Steel Wheels Tour in 1989.
Converse has sold more than a billion pairs of Chucks. The company has gone bankrupt a few times, before being bought by Nike in 2003 for $305 million. Annual sales of the brand have increased 75 percent in the last five years to nearly $2 billion—just a fraction of Nike’s total annual revenue of $30 billion, but still a nice chunk of change. Sales have grown an average of 15 percent in the past three years.
The new Chucks will cost about $75 – $15 more than the old model -- and will be available in both high-top and low-top models in four colors: black, red, white and blue. They go on sale on July 28th. Here are some interesting facts about the iconic piece of footwear:
1) There is a real Chuck Taylor. An enthusiastic basketball player, he walked into the Converse offices in Chicago and got a job as a traveling salesman, selling to high school and college basketball teams. He was so passionate about his work that Converse decided to put his name on every pair in 1932, but he didn’t receive any royalties. He died in 1969.
2) Wilt Chamberlain was wearing a pair of Chucks when he scored his 100th point for the Philadelphia Warriors on March 2, 1962.
3) JFK wore Chucks. So did Dennis the Menace.
4) Chucks were worn by Team USA during the first Olympic basketball game in 1936, as well as both Oregon and Ohio State during the first NCAA National Championship Game in 1939.
5) They were the official training shoes of the U.S. military during World War II.
6) All-white Chucks first appeared in 1936, followed by black and white Chucks in 1949. Colors were introduced to the line in 1971, along with suede. At one time, Converse was making 500 different versions of Chuck Taylors.
7) Tree Rollins was the last NBA player to wear Chucks in a basketball game, in 1979.
8) Chucks were manufactured in the U.S. until 2001 before production moved overseas to China, Vietnam and Indonesia.
9) The low-cut Chuck, or the Oxford Chuck, was introduced in 1957.
10) Someone buys a pair of Converse All Stars every 43 seconds.
11) A pair of the 75th anniversary edition in Stars and Bars is in the Smithsonian.
12) The sneaker’s signature ventilation eyelets were added in 1932.
13) Converse has done Chuck Taylor collaborations with the Grateful Dead, the Doors, Black Sabbath, The Who, Pink Floyd, Ozzy Osbourne, Blondie, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, AC/DC, Metallica, Gorillas, the Edge, Billie Joe Armstrong, and M83. They’ve also done a Ramones edition, a Kurt edition, and a Clash edition.
14) Tina Fey and Amy Poehler wore Chucks when they hosted the 2013 Golden Globe Awards. Check them out in this publicity photo.
15) Florida teacher Penny Gold holds the Guinness World Record for owning 733 pairs of Chucks in 2013.