The Converse Sneakers
Don't let the love affair with the canvas upper on the famed Converse Chuck Taylor fool you — the brand got its actual start because of rubber. As was common in the day, Converse was born as a rubber company, founded in 1908 in Massachusetts. By 1915, Converse had its first shoes, a tennis design, and another traction-focused creation, all designed to compete with the other big rubber companies-turned-shoemakers.
But what gave Converse the advantage was a shoe created for the basketball court, the 1917 Converse All Star. With a rubber outsole and cotton-based canvas high-top upper, Converse had a winning combination, even if nobody knew about it. That's why Converse hired Chuck Taylor, a former All-American basketball player, to tout the brand in 1921. Not only was Taylor a salesman, but he was an endorser and gave input on the sneaker's design. Over the next two years, Taylor and Converse increased the ankle support and improved the traction. In turn, Converse adorned his name on the side of the shoe in 1923, and the result was the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star.
A History of Converse: More Than Just About Chuck
The Chuck Taylor became the shoe of choice for basketball players across the country. From the 1936 U.S. Olympic team, the players in the first NCAA Championship game in 1939 — Oregon and Ohio State — or nearly every NBA player in 1949 at the league's birth, the Chuck Taylor was all over the hardwood.
For roughly 50 years, however, there wasn't a lot of style found in the Chuck Taylor silhouette, as it came in just black or white. That changed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The addition of color on the canvas turned the Chuck Taylor from solely a basketball sneaker to a lifestyle crossover shoe.
In the 1970s, the Chuck Taylor began to fade as the on-court basketball style of choice. That was due primarily to the introduction of other brands and new technically designed models from Converse. The last time the Chuck Taylor was worn in an NBA game was in 1979. Since then, the Chuck has continued its lifestyle dominance, coming in every color imaginable and with materials aplenty, from fully waterproof versions to low-top slip-ons and countless collaborations.
Converse is most well-known for the Chuck Taylor, but there's a lot more to the name. In the 1970s, Converse bought the B.F. Goodrich company and with it attained the Jack Purcell shoe line made popular in tennis. The skateboarding culture adopted Chuck Taylors, prompting Converse to create its own skate-specific line of shoes to match the demand. Converse also continued to develop performance basketball shoes for a few decades.
Nike purchased Converse in 2004, which helped reenergize the Chuck Taylor with new materials and collaboration opportunities. It also led to the eventual restart of the brand's performance basketball unit in 2019.
Most Sought-After Converse Styles
No other major athletics brand has a singular style that has so defined a company. For over 100 years, the spotlight has been on the Chuck Taylor. But Converse has much more to offer, even as the primary source of interest comes from basketball and skateboarding.
The Chuck Taylor
For more than 100 years, this shoe has defined Converse and has been a guiding design for basketball's early years.
The CONS One Star
This one has a story not uncommon in sneaker history. It was created for basketball in the 1970s but was then taken over by skateboarders and still lives today as a popular lifestyle design.
The Jack Purcell
This was the first signature tennis sneaker when it was made for the Canadian badminton star by the B.F. Goodrich Company. Converse took over ownership of the model in the 1970s, and it continues to be a classic lifestyle alternative.
The Pro Leather
This was a key on-court basketball design for Converse that was worn by Dr. J after its 1976 release. It was also the shoe of choice for Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and continues as an admired lifestyle design today.
The Converse All Star Pro BB
2019 brought a return to performance basketball with this popular style.
The Run Star Hike
This 2020 creation takes the Chuck Taylor and updates it with a modern design and funky outdoor-inspired outsole seen initially on the Run Star, giving Converse a completely fresh take on nostalgia.
Converse in Popular Culture
The U.S. Army trained in Chucks in the 1940s, Elvis Presley wore them on television in the 1950s, and nearly every college and professional basketball player donned them in the 1960s. When the Chuck made an on-screen debut in Grease, it helped skyrocket the brand. And with color taking off in the 1970s, fans of the shoe could express their unique personalities. To simply say the Converse Chuck Taylor is one of the sneakers to most successfully cross over from sports to culture doesn't do the allure of the style justice.
Collectibility and Value of Converse Collaborations
The list of collaborators on Converse shoes, especially the Chuck Taylor, is a long one. Everyone from Jonathan Anderson to Virgil Abloh and nearly every streetwear brand in between has jumped aboard. Converse has also partnered with a lineup of famous musicians — from Metallica to Miley Cyrus — and has delved into plenty of pop culture icons along the way, including Dr. Seuss and DC Comics.
A collaboration with Tokyo fashion label AMBUSH resulted in two unique silhouettes — a Chuck Taylor All Star Duck Boot and the head-turning "Hi Fuzzy" with a shaggy shearling upper. These cool collectibles typically sell in the $200 to $400 range on eBay.
Collectors looking for something a little more on the wild side should clear a spot in their sneaker closet for the Converse x Brain Dead collab. The LA-based company mixes animal prints with eye-catching designs for truly memorable creations. Expect to pay a pretty penny, as these highly sought-after silhouettes often fetch high three digits at auction.
Converse - Chuck Taylor All Star Vulcanized (162204C)
Converse - White (CN160286C)
Another collaboration that gets sneakerheads excited is the Golf Le Fleur collection designed by rapper and music producer Tyler the Creator. Though not as pricey as the Brain Dead collabs, certain Golf Le Fleur silhouettes can often be found listing for up to $600 or more.
Converse x Comme des Garcons collaborations feature a playful heart-and-eyes logo. Styles can often be found under $100, but certain colorways have been spotted listing for over $500 on eBay.
Part of the draw of collecting Converse is there's a design for everyone. The sheer volume of Chuck Taylor creations is as diverse as any sneaker on the market. That said, when Converse collaborates with famous fashion designers, collectors take extra notice. The Off-White designs from Virgil Abloh have proven some of the most popular, like his Chuck Taylor All Star Vulcanized (162204C) creation in 2008 valued at over $1,000 on the resale market. A Joe Freshgoods model can run over $1,200. Another sought-after collaboration is the Kith x Coca-Cola design in a mixture of colors. The White (CN160286C) from 2017 can fetch more than $600 on the resale market.