My first pair of shoes were pale pink Converse. Before I was even born, my parents had a tiny pair of All Star’s hanging in my nursery, impatiently awaiting my arrival. Of course, these infant sized booties only fit my little feet for a few weeks, but with every new foot size, a box arrived with a shiny new pair of Converse: a sparkly rainbow pair, a perfect purple pair, and eventually, the iconic black and white Chucks. Sure, my foot grew, but I never grew out of my Converse. Eighteen years later, I still have a pair, sharpied with maize and blue, and tied in perfect bows on the floor of my closet.
Converse existed long before my generation, Gen Z. In 1908, small business owner Marquis Mills Converse curated a shoe for basketball players. By the 1920’s, Charles “Chuck” Taylor, a basketball player at the time, joined the Converse team. He produced an ankle patch to protect the players and enhance flexibility; thus, the Chuck Taylor All Star Converse was born. The renowned shoe remained unchanged in success and design for decades. In the 1960’s, Converse could be seen laced up on 90% of professional basketball players. In the following years, All Stars’ unique design spread like wildfire, and not just among athletes, but to youth and adults alike. Women also joined the Converse trend, enabling them to embrace style and comfort for the very first time. Nearly unimaginable, a bespoke shoe designed for the feet of NBA stars now broke barriers, flashing across city streets on the soles of women.
In 1975, unisex fashion reigned supreme, and Converse was among its leaders, acting as one of the first sneaker brands that both women and men could wear side by side. By pioneering gender neutral ideals into their brand, they had developed a timeless look for everyone. Now, unisex fashion is taking on the industry by storm, and Converse was ahead of its time. Ensuring all genders would be represented, Converse crafted their sneakers to support their consumers across any style, sexuality, and age. They continue to encourage self expression irrespective of its wearers’ identity.
The brand’s brilliant marketing campaign contributes to its timeless aura. Nike bought Converse back in 2003 for $305 million; Nike’s marketing powerhouse assisted immensely with sales, and introduced modern collaborations to the brand for increased consumer interest. Due to the shoe’s popularity, Converse easily could have inflated their prices and become a luxury brand, catering to a wealthier market. However, they remained classic and affordable, priced at only $50 to date, remaining true to their original brand identity. Converse cleverly crafted their business strategy with decisive precision to remain “your go-to icon,” as they state on their website. Regardless of economic status, Converse stands apart from other unaffordable brands, capturing multi-cultured, multi-classed consumers with its consistent fair pricing, acting as a fashion equalizer. Whether you are a CEO or a starving artist, it is likely that you will sport a pair of Converse with equal flare.
Evolving with the ever-changing fashion world, Converse partners with our favorite celebrities, such as Miley Cyrus, and collaborates with the most sought after brands. In a limited edition release back in 2018, Converse partnered with the brilliant creative mind behind Off-White, Virgil Abloh, for a second time. Abloh took the classic Chuck Taylor and added his own designs to the shoe. Converse also has an ongoing partnership with Comme Des Garçons. Featuring their signature red heart, the shoe sells for only a slightly inflated price of $150; Converse extended its original limited edition because they coined it as a “fan favorite” — a timeless staple in closets across the country.
Despite their continued success, simply selling a great shoe isn’t enough in a world filled with passionate and conscious consumers that look beyond the product. Converse invests in a greater purpose for its customers and remains mindful in a world of social impact. In a campaign they began in March of 2020, Converse teamed up with SiKK Magazine, a Howard University student-run publication that showcases black creativity. This group of inspired students have a lot to say, and Converse stepped up to amplify their voices. Shining light on social change, the Converse x I Stand For Movement was formed. Creating a plain white high top All Star, with the words “I STAND FOR” at the top, these shoes act as a canvas of expression, representing passion and intention. The founder of SiKK, Nadira Jamerson commented, stating that “if you write what you believe in, what you stand for, on your shoes, you are creating the opportunity to inspire all the people you walk by.”
The future remains set in stone for Converse because tomorrow’s artists can use the shoe as their aesthetic outlet. Along with their customizable option, Converse encourages everyone to “show the world your creative style” by adding neon laces, creative colorways, platform soles, and leather textures to the shoe. These 2020 personal flares only accentuate Chuck Taylor’s classic look.
Without a doubt, any company that promotes social equality and inclusion is a cherished, timeless American classic. A brand that everyone can afford, everyone can design, and everyone can wear, will never go out of style.