The Best of Converse 2021
Converse may be 113 years old, but that doesn't mean they're afraid to push the envelope. When a brand has a model that makes a strong case for the greatest sneaker of all time (like Converse does with the Chuck Taylor All-Star), you couldn't blame them if they decided to rest on their laurels and become a heritage brand – but that's not how the Converse crew does things. 2021 saw Converse make great strides in everything from collaboration to community and comfort, all while retaining their beloved classic ethos. Who says you have to act your age?
Rick Owens Rules
Colabs are a major piece of any brand's year in the modern-day footwear market, but among all the co-created sneakers Converse cranked out this year – with Kim Jones, GOLF WANG, Telfar, and, of course, COMME des GARÇONS infamous 'Converse with the hearts' – the most notable were Rick Owens' efforts. Owens is open about his desire to 'distort the ubiquitous', and over the course of 2021, he did just that by reworking the Chuck 70 and the Weapon.
Owens kicked things off with a square-toed take on the Chuck 70 dubbed the TURBODRK, then turned his attention to the Weapon, creating the stark and striking TURBOWPN. The final piece of his trilogy was the Chuck 70 DRKSTAR, which repurposed the rounded toe from his famous Ramones sneakers. With their altered proportions and elongated tongues, Owens' Converse became a go-to for the high fashion crowd and served as one of Converse's most exciting collaborative projects in recent memory.
The Chuck Taylor has always been the 'people's shoe', one loved by musicians, athletes, fashionistas and no-frills everymen alike. It's also a subcultural favourite that stands for something, so Converse (and their partners) put their money where their mouth was in 2021, championing community-focused initiatives and noble causes.,
Virgil Abloh signed and gave away pairs of his Off-White x Converse Chuck 70 to raise funds and awareness for his 'I Support Black Women' initiative. John Boyega was tapped to lead the London chapter of the Converse All-Stars program, an initiative that's 'predicated on creating new pipelines of experience for young people to learn about creative careers'. Issa Rae's Converse Chuck Taylor All Star By You capsule promoted positive thinking while spotlighting the work of Haitian artist Nicky Fulcher, and Converse CONS partnered with the Ben Remmers Foundation to shine a spotlight on mental health in skateboarding. Now that's an all-star list!
Back to Ballin'
Converse has deeper roots in basketball than any other footwear brand. After all, the Chuck Taylor All Star was originally a basketball shoe! After recently reintroducing themselves into the basketball market, Converse picked up the pace in 2021 by spotlighting the personalities and style of their athletes – both on and off the court.
WNBA star Natasha Cloud because the first-ever female basketball player with a Converse PE when her All Star BB Evo 'Petal To the Metal' was released. Draymond Green was in the mix as well with his G4 'Hyper Swarm' PE. Sartorially-inclined rising stars Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kelly Oubre Jr. got a chance to spotlight their off-court flair with the Pro Leather 'Chase the Drip' pack. Converse also revitalised the iconic Weapon – a 1980s hoop shoe worn by the likes of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson – by producing the new Weapon CX.
While some brands will take any opportunity to trumpet their sustainable bona fides, Converse instead opted to do more and say less. The brand focused on making their products more environmentally conscious without using a glut of marketing to promote it, continuing their Renewed initiative with sustainable takes on popular models like the Chuck Taylor All Star and Run Star Hike.
Converse also opened a store called 'Renew Labs' in Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia. Centred around breathing new life into well-loved kicks, it offers services ranging from sole restoration to heel lining repair, custom patches and even a good old-fashioned deep clean, plus the latest and greatest from the Renew line.
Some would tell you that shoes from the Chuck Taylor line aren't comfortable. That their signature mix of rubber and canvas doesn't offer the cushion you need. Converse heard those concerns and addressed them by overhauling the line's comfort features, beefing up the Chuck Taylor All Star, Chuck 70 and Chuck Taylor CX without fundamentally altering any of their looks!
From moving seams to eliminate annoying 'hot spots' to adding polyurethane wedges and strobels for enhanced cushion, Converse gave their icons some under-the-hood upgrades that can't be seen but are definitely felt. When a brand listens to the concerns of their consumers, everybody wins.