Now I'm fresh, dressed, like a million bucks
Threw on my white socks, with my all blue Chucks1
Dropped out of school
Everyone thinks she's so fucking cool
In her leather jacket and a stolen pair of Chucks2
Only in Cali where we riot not rally to live and die
In L.A. we wearin Chucks not Ballies (that's right)3
History and Politics
Chuck Taylor All-Stars are the best-selling shoe in the world, with over 750 million pairs sold4 at the time of this writing. They are commonly referred to as "All-Stars", or "Cons", but most often as just "Chucks". Chucks, because of their simple design, relatively high utility/price ratio, and constant celebrity endorsement, enjoy an iconic role in many peoples' minds, for many different reasons. Though the design has remained the same through the years, the shoes are now available in a wide variety of colors. As evidenced above, they are sometimes used to signify gang affiliation (Snoop Dogg is publicly affiliated with the Crips, whose signature colors are blue and white.). They are most certainly not restricted to this role alone.
Chucks are made by the Converse shoe company. Converse started manufacturing them in 1908, but did not introduce the All-Star branding until 1917. In 1918, Mr. Marquis Converse enlisted the help of the now-famous Charles Taylor, who was a famous basketball player, as an endorser. He would continue to endorse the shoes until his retirement in 1968. Chuck's signature is now found on the side of every pair of All-Stars. In the late 1960s, enthusiasm for the shoes dropped as players opted for more modern designs in footwear. Chucks faded from the professional sports scene around this time, but had already become ingrained in popular fashion.
Converse was bought for some $305 million by Nike in 20035. They are now manufactured in sweatshops in Asia, much to the dismay of many of the more political minded young people who took up the shoe as an everyman's symbol when it was still made in the United States. Nike's position on the sweatshop matter is best described as a combination of hand-waving and semantics. The company itself does not employ workers under the age of 18, however, it has more lenient (and one assumes, less adhered-to) requirements for its subcontractors6.
In the wake of various labor-related objections, numerous companies have sprung up offering Chuck lookalikes manufactured in conditions more acceptable to the target market of the shoes. Some of these brands include No Sweat Apparel and Blackspot Anticorporation, the latter of which manufactures its shoes to comply with vegan lifestyle requirements.
As already mentioned, Chucks are very popular. They are worn by everyone from punks in the Midwest, to gangsters in L.A., to older folks in Florida. Chucks are probably the finest example of a shoe with a unisex and cross-cultural reputation. Though they are commonly associated with what is currently called the "emo scene", this is far from the only type of venue in which they are displayed. Chucks were around before these whiny sissies started wearing them, and they will be around long after the whiny sissies have cut their hair, wiped off their eyeliner, and gone on to the next fashion craze. One unfortunate side-effect of this recent surge in popularity is price: A pair of Chucks in 2000 cost me about $20. Now, in 2007, I see them going for upwards of $40. Nike is not a company to ignore the possibility of increased revenue, and they have most definitely capitalized on the recent upswing in the shoe's popularity.
Many musicians are often pictured wearing Chucks. Kurt Cobain, Chino Moreno of the Deftones, and The Ramones come readily to mind, but I have no doubt that this is a very incomplete list. Tlachtga, whom I'm sure really is a rock star at heart, says she saw The Replacements wearing Chucks on the cover of their album Let It Be, "which is why I started wearing them."
Design and Construction
I have referred to these shoes as "iconic", and I mean it. Chucks are the default thing that comes to most people's minds when you say the word "sneakers" to them. The design is simple and classic, and Nike has wisely done nothing to change it since their acquisition of the company.
Chucks are constructed sturdily and simply. They have a canvas upper, which comes in over a dozen template colors (and can be further customized and ordered on the Converse website), a rubber sole, and (at least on my high-tops) eight pairs of eyelets for the shoelaces, as well as two on the logo side, presumably for aiding in ventilation. The sole is textured with a simple but effective diamond/line pattern and displays the company name and the size of the shoe. The size and various other information is displayed on the inside of the tongue. The toe is covered with white rubber, as is the outside of the shoe from the base to about 3/4" up. There is a thinner black stripe going around the white one, except where it is covered on the first quarter or so of the shoe by a textured rubber patch, presumably for extra durability. On the back of the heel, the words "ALL STAR" appear, and on the inward-facing side of the shoe, the familiar logo consisting of a star, Chuck Taylor's signature, and the words "CONVERSE ALL STAR" is displayed. They are usually sold with white shoelaces.
All-Stars now come in a variety of styles. One can find low-tops, high-heels, knee-length boots, nonslip institutional shoes, and various other kinds all in the familiar Chucks design profile.
They're black high-tops. I've owned several pairs throughout the years, but most of them have been black high-tops. I have rainbow tie-dye laces in them. The eyelets and the area immediately around them is crusted with drywall mud, 'cause that's what I used to do in them. They are some of the most comfortable shoes I own, but they may not be for everyone. As with all shoes, a little breaking-in is necessary.
In my experience, Chucks tend to run on the bigger side compared to other shoes, as far as size goes. I usually need to purchase 14 wide for boots and dress shoes, but my pair of Chucks is size 13 and fits just fine. This is a major factor in my fondness for the shoes.
- Snoop Doggy Dogg. "Lodi Dodi". Doggystyle.
- The Ataris. "Kristine's A Punk".
- 2pac featuring Dr. Dre. "California Love". All Eyez On Me.