2016 Highlight Reel: Converse
Converse are a company steeped in tradition, with their flagship shoes ranking as among some of the most ubiquitous on the planet. However, the brand also know that being informed by a legacy doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be defined by it – and their 2016 product offerings illustrate that mentality succinctly. This year we saw modern tech applied to beloved favourites, elemental upgrades and covetable colabs – come with us we recap the highlights from the Boston-based all stars.
Fragment One Star
Converse began the year in Japan with a sublime Fragment colab. The One Star has always done well in Japan thanks to lenient regional licensing, but these two suede reinvigorated demand for the rebellious icon and in turn 2016 proved to be one of its biggest years yet.
‘Ruthless simplicity’ is what Converse’s VP of design and innovation, Brian Cioffi, said of their new Modern range. First used on their Chuck Taylor All Star, the upgrade was both momentous and minimal. We attended the global launch of the line in New York and upon its unveiling, immediate talk among the crowd centred around how the sneaker looked so different, yet so familiar.
This was due to materials being replaced by harmonious counterparts. Circular knit replaced a canvas upper allowing for more creative colour applications. Hyperfuse overlays were used in spaces once occupied by metal eyelets and heel patches. Micro-suede memory foam was used on the tongue, Phylon on the midsole and the whole silhouette was streamlined to align with contemporary tastes. The shoe Converse had created was a smorgasbord of subtle updates and sly Easter eggs.
The tenets of the Modern line have since spread to models like the Auckland, Jack Purcell and Thunderbolt – repurposing each for a new epoch of sneaker fans. In recreating a classic, the Modern upgrade also allowed Converse another win – their first HTM collaboration. Hiroshi, Tinker and Mark offered a premium version of the evolution built with goat leather in contrasting white and black.
The Jack Purcell signature was given so many reasons to smile in 2016 that we’re counting it as a highlight on its own. After swerving on its intended purpose as a performance badminton sneaker, the shoe has found a following for its palatable proportions. In 2016 though, the Purcell became much more than cosmetically pleasing. Along with the Modern upgrade, the Purcell was souped up with Lunarlon and Zoom Air tech on different occasions. Meaning; though it’s days of chasing shuttlecocks were behind it, it’d still fare well after an on-court thrashing. Shield Canvas, coated terry, quilting and leather also all made appearances on the sneaker.
This year saw Converse tackle that persistent pain – wet feet. Launching the Counter Climate range, Converse coated the fabric on a range of sneakers with Durable Water Repellent – a substance engineered to be hydrophobic. To further bolster the shoes against inclement weather, medial eyelets were removed and a gusseted tongue was included to lure water away from your socks and out of the shoe. Brilliantly simple, simply brilliant.
Pro Leather Upgrade
Continuing their subtle approach to sneaker updates, Converse also gave their Pro Leather 76 a minor, but effective, renovation. Some 40 years after it conquered ball courts, the Pro Leather was reinvigorated with a ‘Triple White’ and ‘Triple Black’ pair pitched at 2016’s sensibilities. Changes were minor – leather still abounded over their upper, but the application of which was executed in a way that simply wasn’t possible back when the shoe was first produced.