The Chuck Taylor is the Greatest Sneaker on Earth
The Converse Chuck Taylor is the ultimate chameleon. Conceived within the early biological stages of basketball, the legendary Chuck has gently mutated over the last 100 years, transfixing everyone from the Globetrotters in the 1950s, California’s ‘beach boys’ of the 1960s, and streetwear icons like Virgil Abloh and Tyler, The Creator in more recent times. The Chuck Taylor continues to burn brighter than any other sneaker in the cosmos – do we really need a telescope to prove it?
Chuck Chuck Boom
There were quite a few on-court eyesores getting around during the early iterations of the sport then known as ‘Basket Ball’. Devised by Dr James Naismith in 1891, the game originally featured peach baskets tied to 10-foot poles, early adopters of the sport darting across gyms in tank tops, woollen undershirts, knee high socks, and canvas shorts pulled together by belts. Intended to provide an ‘athletic distraction’ for Dr Naismith’s YMCA gym, basketball’s fledgling years were sewn together by sartorial antiquities and technical oversights. However, one aspect of the game continues to exist in a kind of cultural perpetuity ever since it was first laced back in 1917. That is, of course, the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star.
'The All Star continues to burn brighter than any other sneaker in the cosmos – do we really need a telescope to prove it?'
The GOAT Named Chuck
Dubbed the Non-Skid (named after it’s diamond-patterned outsole and grip-like qualities), the All Star was the world’s first celebrity-endorsed sneaker. Chuck Taylor, a semi-professional basketball player and visionary salesman, helped spruik and improve the silhouette, travelling across the United States to conduct basketball clinics and rep the All Star. Innovations introduced by Converse over a century ago continue to inform the material choices for all kinds of brands. For example, vulcanised rubber, diamond-treaded shoes, and riveted lace holes (that stopped the canvas from ripping) completely reorchestrated the process of making sneakers. The All Star, a sneaker built for performance, became a stylistic Renaissance for sneaker culture.
Runnin' on my Mind, Boy. Forrest Gump.
The Chuck Taylor All Star still carries the genealogical imprints from the 1920s, somehow maintaining a cultural relevance that continues to make other shoes blush. It’s the great Forrest Gump of sneakers – constantly appearing in the background of significant historical moments. The All Star was the first shoe laced by the American Olympic basketball team in 1936. When production nearly ground to a halt during World War II, Converse released the All Star made with ‘wartime construction techniques’ that rationed materials to support the troops. The sneaker was laced by the Harlem Globetrotters in the 1950s, California’s ‘beach boys’ in the 1960s, Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game for Philadelphia in 1962, and Julius Erving for his nuclear baseline scoop during the 1980 NBA Final.
The Converse All Star was also, for a kid growing up in a town so quotidian you copped thrills from petty vandalism and cheap meatball subs, an opportunity to access a basketball and hip hop culture estranged by dial-up Internet and intermittent SLAM magazines.
'The All Star, a sneaker built for performance, became a stylistic Renaissance for sneaker culture.'
Wish Upon a Star
We’d never seen such strange, elongated necks; the pale, textured leather uppers and star-studded ankles. Then there were the brushed metal eyelets, the vulcanised rubber and reinforced toe caps, keeping you up all night like alert strips along a highway. The dreaded hand-me-down instead became a ceremonial lacing of the Chuck Taylor free of grievances, immediately absolving the discontent wafting from dirty blazers, oversized pants or God-forsaken school shoes.
Nowadays, we’ve grown accustomed to the relentless run of Converse All Star collaborations and iterations. It’s easy to forget the storied history that changed sneaker culture and propelled basketball into the broader public consciousness. Recently, everyone’s had a crack at the Chuck. JW Anderson stamped his initials across the uppers. Tyler, The Creator continues to bring in his GOLF Le FLEUR* harvest. Virgil Abloh tagged it with zip ties. Millie Bobby Brown stamped it with the cultural supanova Stranger Things, and both Fear of God’s Jerry Lorenzo and Jun Takahashi’s UNDERCOVER stripped down the Chuck 70 for their own unique spin. But for me? I’ll take them navy blue with red laces. Sitting somewhere alongside the Nike Air Max 1 and Air Jordan 4. Permanent rotation. Reliable, versatile, and still burning as bright as they did all the way back in the 1920s.
The All Star will always be a game-changer of biblical proportions, and irrevocably change the belief structure of a bunch of country kids with a newfound religion: Sneakers.