Converse, story of an icon
Legend would be that it all started with a fall down the stairs. The injured man, a certain Marquis Mills Converse, had the idea of creating the first shoes with rubber soles so that this would never happen again. As a result, in 1908, he founded the Converse Rubber Shoe Company, which at that time only sold stuffed boots with the famous sole, and this is the beginning of Converse's history.
In 1910, the production of shoes began to increase in volume. But it was not until 1915 that Marquis Mills launched its range of products for the sports world. At the time, shoes were not considered as a stylish accessory, so production was still shy. Indeed, at that time, canvas shoes only found their place in top-level sport because of their resistant sole and their lightness.
Consult here the Converse collection of our store !
Over a century of influence
As early as 1920, basketball shoes - a sport where converse was the most appropriate because they were very effective on the floor - took the name "All-Star". Already produced since 1917, their success began when the brand hired basketball player Charles'Chuck' Taylor, a member of the Akron Firestones chain.
From the beginning, he came to the store to complain about foot pain, he was hired as marketing director and brand ambassador. It seems that this role pleased the player because he boosted the pair's sales, which were at the feet of many teams. Converse thus became one of the most present sponsors of the American Basketball League (the ancestor of the NBA).
As if to salute the player's involvement in the success of the All-Star, Converse decided in 1932 to have Taylor's name printed on the shoe. This small signature, which later fed the star of the famous circular logo, gave birth to the Chuck Taylors we know so well today.
In 1936, Converse was one of the sponsors of the Berlin Olympic Games. It features the first white rising Chuck Taylor All Star with its red and blue stripes drawn along the sole. These new sports shoes set the fuse on fire because in the years that followed, the brand continued to grow in popularity. It was followed by sponsorship and sports contracts, becoming omnipresent in the era of the first televisions.erm
As proof of the general enthusiasm for the star, in 1957, it was estimated that Converse held an 80% market share in the sneaker industry. And you don't stop a train launched at that speed, 10 years later, the brand gets the rights to produce the first Jack Purcell.
Low shoes initially created by the firm BF Goodrich (aviation equipment company) in tribute to the influential badminton player. Once under Converse's wing, these shoes will stand the test of time in the same way as the All-Stars, a success that can still be seen today.
This dazzling success is an example for all designers and markers in the world of football and business in general. But this kind of career is no longer very surprising nowadays. What does mark people's minds, however, is the star's ability to have been omnipresent at every turn of popular culture and to charm the different generations.
A real influence of pop-culture
Converse has had an evolution all the more interesting because it has not fallen into the image of the utility shoe. Known only for its resistant and lightweight materials, it aims to be adapted for use in top-level sport as well as on the battlefield. It has marked the trend and pop culture over several decades.
Not insignificant example, they have been seen at the feet of the Nirvana group in most of its public shows. They make them - without realizing it - popular in the rock world. Finally, this favorite of the star will define a turning point in the influences and aura of the brand.
Kurt Cobain becomes a new Converse ambassador with the most notoriety and gives a rebellious and artistic image to sneakers previously more attached to the professional world. It should be noted that we were also able to get pictures of Elvis Presley carrying Converses before that.
In the aftermath, converse groups appeared in the world of cinema. We find them, for example, at the feet of James Dean in the cultissime Fury of Life but also at the feet of Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting. The arrival of these partners in Hollywood is clear proof of the high speed success of the Converse trend.
Finally, this success is totally legitimate and controlled because we can see that their ad was purely avant-garde. Marquis Mills and Chuck Taylor understood first and foremost the importance of having ambassadors. Carried at the feet of the stars of the moment, it is obvious that we make fans adept. A pair of shoes can thus be transformed into a symbolic accessory of a typical fashion and style.
The converse today
From the 1990s to the 2000s, Converse began to be outpaced by its old competitors. Nike, Adidas, Reebook or Asics have grown enormously in the last ten years. Indeed, sneakers with new materials optimizing comfort are emerging. The Air Max bubble or Onitsuka's GEL then give a serious old-fashioned blow to the famous canvas risers.
In 2003, finding himself overtaken by events, Converse was bought by the giant to the point, which was far from being a disgrace. Considering the star as a father, Nike will give it a new skin. It therefore defines the brand as an immortal style, leaving it with its own point of sale, without touching the mythical models.
Not just by keeping their idol alive, Nike will push the brand to grow by creating ranges with remarkable artists or even haute couture houses.
A brand that highlights artists
Although Converse is no longer an independent brand, it is far from being overshadowed by the number one in sportswear. Indeed, since 2003, the brand has multiplied the number of style blends. Among the most popular, we can talk about the long association with Missioni.
The famous Italian company applied its graphic prints and other wool fabrics dyed in sections on the mythical pairs. Since 2009, Missioni has revisited the all Star converse about ten times, always with finesse, trying to make the centenary pair.
In the same years, it was Rei Kawakubo who decided to add his stone to the monument. The heart with big eyes is added to the ankle to create a pair that we know very well. This association is now an essential event since they have been published three times a year for several years.
Proof of the success of the converse with Comme des Garçons, we have seen them at the feet of world stars like Drake or Kanye West.
Indeed, today, any artist can appropriate the pairs. Music stars starting with Nirvana, Elvis Presley or Taylor the Creator much more recently with his label GOLF le FLEUR*. Recently in France, it was Lomepal that also customised and put on sale a pair of limited quantities of One Star.
A real value can therefore be given to these mythical pairs. One example is the preformance of artist Nate Lowman, who had painted All Stars by hand, for a total of 180 hours of work per pair. This incredible association was sold for €25,000 each, a true work of art that had made it widely known as the most expensive shoes in history.
We will also remember the work of the Maison Martin Margiela with its pairs covered with the famous painting "Blanc de Meudon". Commonly used by the French house, it crumbles with time, revealing a flow. A purple red that we don't necessarily have much opportunity to see on the Conv.
What determines Nike's appropriation of Converse is really this desire to preserve a heritage. It is a refusal of nostalgia that passes through ever more innovative variants of a model engraved in history. The star ranges have become extremely rich artistic supports that can inspire all styles. It is a shoe that promotes the expression of personality.
By Alexandre Tolmais.