THESE SPORTS BECOMES BRANDS – This commercialized backpacker has made Converse All Star a best-selling shoe. The model will celebrate its centenary next year.
Who is Chuck Taylor? His signature spans hundreds of millions of ankles on the planet, amidst the star logo of the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star shoes, an undisputed expression of urban fashion for decades. But posing the question to any of its holders on the street inevitably provokes questioning glances and long seconds of reflection.
Let us forget the hypotheses more or less inspired: this American basketball of the years 1920-1930 is the first sportsman of History to have his name attached to a model of sneakers (or sneakers). An honor devoted not so much to his performances on the ground as to his talents of seller: ambassador of Converse for forty years, he will make of this shoe a bestseller, today declined in innumerable versions and colors and which will celebrate its centenary l Next year.
More than sneakers, Charles ‘Chuck’ Hollis Taylor first dedicated his life to basketball, invented ten years before his birth in 1901. An honest player at a time when the sport is still semi-professional, he joined Twenty-one-year-old Converse as a salesman. This shoe manufacturer launched five years ago a model dedicated to athletes, the All Star. The young man quickly suggests technical improvements that will result in an almost unchanged design until today.
‘People ordered’ Chuck Taylor’s shoes ‘instead of asking for Converse All Star, so his name was added right next to the star.
In a few years, the shoe is making a reputation. Because Chuck Taylor is the best VRP of Converse. Headed by the company’s well-known basketball team – the well-known Converse All-Stars – he rides demonstration tours in universities, organizes youth internships in all cities in the United States, Meets the local press at every step … Until it embodies the brand itself. ‘People ordered’ Chuck’s shoes ‘or’ Chuck Taylor’s shoes ‘instead of asking for Converse All Star. Then his name was added just beside the star [Converse’s logo, Ed.]. A brilliant marketing move, ‘Joe Dean, a former vice-president of Converse who was with Chuck Taylor, said a few years ago.
His footprint is definitely displayed on the All Star in 1932 … without it claiming a single cent on sales! Married twice but mostly in love with his sport, he prefers to continue to crisscross the roads, chain hotel nights – and female conquests -, write his own legend. ‘He and Converse have often claimed that he was part of two of the great teams of the time. It was wrong, but it helped sell shoes, ‘wrote Abraham Aamidor, author of the biography’ Chuck Taylor, All Star ‘.
The model becomes a must in the United States, carried by nearly all the players of the American basketball championship in the 1960s, at the feet of Olympic delegations to the Olympic Games and soldiers of the US Army and Navy. The end of the first act of the success story coincides strangely with the death of Chuck Taylor in 1969 – one year after his retirement. In a decade, Converse loses contact with the world of sport, distanced by Adidas then Nike.
‘All Star were born on basketball floors, were raised by rock and roll and truly embraced by urban culture and fashion over time.’
The brand has already begun its second life. After the Second World War, each new generation of music re-appropriated this timeless look: Elvis, the Stones, The Who, Kurt Cobain … The fans’ community extends to contemporary artists (Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst have collaborated With Converse), to fashion designers … ‘The Chuck Taylor All Star were born on basketball floors, were raised by rock and roll and truly adopted by urban culture and fashion over time’ , Said Converse’s vice president, Magnus Wedhammar.
Despite this aura, Converse went bankrupt in 2001 before being bought by Nike. Who transforms the brand into a cash machine: revenues, mainly from the All Star, have increased ten-fold since 2002 to almost $ 2 billion. This makes Chuck Taylor the second most popular player who sells the most shoes to his name today, in front of all the current stars. ‘I often say that his association with Converse is the best partnership in the history of basketball after Michael Jordan and Nike,’ said Matt Powell, an industry analyst with NPD. Even if his name does not mention anything to most of those who wear his shoes.