If you talk about Converse trainers these days, most people will probably remember the days when Chuck Taylors were what everyone was wearing on the streets. Chucks, or the Chuck Taylor All-Star shoes, were pretty much part of the history of Converse since the shoes were developed and released in 1917 and when the basketball player Chuck Taylor became the ambassador for the shoe company in 1921. However, the Converse company started more than a decade before that in 1908, when the Marquis Mill manufacturing firm established the Converse Rubber Shoe Company. Just a couple of years later, Converse models were flying off shelves, requiring the shoe company to produce 4,000 shoes every day.
Converse trainers remained popular throughout the years although there was a decrease in production during the Second World War because the shoe companys facilities were forced to produce protective suits and rubberized footwear for the military. After the war, Converse basketball shoes picked up in sales again during the 1950s and 1960s, proving effective the distinctly American image that the brand was promoting. In the 1970s though, Converse trainers faced a lot of competition with Adidas, Puma, Nike, and Reebok coming into the fold and taking a huge chunk of the market. It also didnt help that Converse was no longer the National Basketball Associations official shoe.
Loss of market share compounded by poor business decisions saw Converse filing for bankruptcy in January 2001. In April of 2001 though, Footwear Acquisitions, as led by Bill Simon and Mardsen Cason, bought Converse and turned things around with the help of industry partners David Maddocks, Lisa Kempa, Jim Stroesser, and Jack Boys. With their efforts Converse jumped from 16th place to 7th of the largest footwear companies, and all this was done in less than two and a half years. It was Nikes turn to feel the heat and so a merger was proposed and approved in 2003, with Nike buying Converse out for $305 million. That amount put the merger as the largest of the year and Converse has been experiencing tremendous growth and success ever since. Some of the NBA players who have been using Converse trainers include JJ Barea, Chris Andersen, Luke Harangody, Larry Sanders, Louis Williams, Elton Brand, Udonis Haslem, Acie Law, Maurice Evans, Kyle Korver, Kirk Hinrich, and Big Baby Glen Davis.
Apart from the Chuck Taylor All Star Basketball Shoe, The Weapon was also one of the more memorable Converse released. Made available in 1986, The Weapon was a unique shoe in that it was made out of leather all throughout and it had a heavily padded inside heel that was very comfortable for the user. When the shoe was re-released in 2002, Kobe Bryant and Andre Miller were some of the supporters of The Weapon. Over the years, there were also special edition Converse trainers released, including Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, The Clash, The Ramones, Grateful Dead, AC/DC, Nirvana, Gorillaz, DC Comics, and Dr. Seuss, along with high tops inspired by The Who and the 1Hund(red) collection that supported HIV/AIDS relief by donating 15% of all its sales.
Posted by Roger Martin for Stand Out.