Converse cruised through 2017 with the grace of an old pro — largely because they are both practiced professionals and very, very old. As a centenarian, the brand’s hips should be seizing. However they seem to have found the fountain of youth, kegged it and joined new-gen sneakerheads in red-cup revelry.
While celebrating their Chuck Taylor’s 100th year, the brand reinforced its status as a counterculture icon, explored new technology and forged relationships that sparked heavyweight colabs.
There’s a lot to reflect on with a milestone this big. It’d be nice if it was condensed into a play-by-play, maybe some type of highlight reel…
Hitting triple digits is big, but the Chuck Taylor isn’t stopping there; rather, it’s trying to stick around for as long as the stars that its motif draws from. The Forever Chuck campaign cast immortality in Converse’s crosshairs by aligning the Chuck with the next generation.
Youngbloods like Millie Bobby Brown, Vince Staples, Keith Ape, Maisie Williams and Winnie Harlow all rode for Converse in a Forever Chuck video collection. Even Miley Cyrus joined in hosting a series called Converse Public Access in which she interviewed emerging talents poised to inherit the entertainment industry.
With so many future leaders embracing the Chuck Taylor just as those before them, you can bet that the sneaker lodestar is still rising.
Converse’s trump card is their knack for subtlety. They’ve managed to hit the Chuck Taylor All Star with a mountain of updates over the year while retaining the sneaker’s loveable OG vibe. That ability to tweak, to rebuild without tearing down, is key to why the Chuck feels to you how it did to punks in the 70s.
In years prior, Converse added tech like Lunarlon or Shield Canvas. In 2017, they phoned a friend and brought in Nike’s Flyknit technology. Straight from the jump, eight new colourways were fed through the loom. Bright pops of ‘Green Glow’, ‘Indigo’ and ‘Hyper Grape’ were complemented by ‘Dark Atomic Teal’ and ‘Wolf Grey’ among others.
The update didn’t shake the sneaker world, but it wasn’t meant to; rather, it simply lent another garment to Converse’s wardrobe – another statement piece to measure against their classic styling.
You can't travel as far as Converse have without picking up a few friends along the way. Many joined the journey this year, but there are a few stellar standouts. With retailers it was the weirder the better. CLOT took the One Star to a philosophical place; teachings from the Analects of Confucius lined the midsolewhile nappy suede sprouted grey whiskers of wisdom.
More recently, JW Anderson and Miley Cyrus bedecked the All Star in glitter (Frank Ocean is a big fan), and Slam Jam released a collection that broke all collaborative codes. Not content with a coat of paint, Slam Jam approached their colab as though they were designing SWAT uniforms. The All Star was rebuilt with Gore-Tex, Velcro and neoprene, while the Purcell-inspired Jump Boot featured more fastenings than a paratrooper’s chute.
However, if you’re weighing Converse’s most important collaborations of 2017, it’s hard to find a heavier hitter than Tyler, the Creator. The irreverent musician-cum-director-cum-designer-cum-television host catapulted the One Star in a new direction by harnessing flower power. His first One Star colab traced petals around the branding and declared ‘Don’t let them kill your flowers, water your garden and sprout’ on the midsole. Tyler's second offering took the One Star and transformed into his own thing entirely: the ‘Golf le Fleur.' The Golf le Fleur took the One Star's advice and sprouted a single flower across its upper from heel to midfoot.
After a deal Tyler says ‘Vans fucked up,’ the artist went above and beyond with the Converse. He championed them in his new Vice series, held a secret show for punters, erected an effigy of his colab at Camp Flog Gnaw and is rarely seen with anything else on-foot. The gestures signal a strong connection that goes beyond commerce. The seeds of success are sown, now let's kick back and watch them sprout.