“Not only have they stayed in vogue, they really do take you back when your only concerns were what’s for dinner, and can you stay out just another 15 minutes!” – Dan Daru
“All aboard” … my time machine for a journey back to November 1, 1966. A time before Fila Men’s 96. Before Reebok’s Royal BB4500. Before Adidas Isolation 2. And certainly before the Air Jordan 7.
You have arrived at our destination. You have entered a time which featured the oldest, most popular, and all-time best selling basketball shoe of all time. The world of Converse’s Chuck Taylor All-Stars – it became more than a basketball shoe.
Actually, the Converse Rubber Corporation opened for business in 1908, making work related rubber shoes and did not introduce their basketball shoe until 1917. The popularity of basketball was growing in this country and Converse decided to develop a shoe people could wear, and felt good, while playing basketball.
The popularity of their canvas high top began to grow when a basketball player for the Akron Firestones by the name of Chuck Taylor took an interest in the shoe and joined the company in 1921. Taylor was a player/coach for their industrial league basketball team and a member of their sales staff. He was so good at marketing their product, the company added his name “Chuck Taylor” to their ankle patch in 1932. Thus, a legend was born – The Chuck Taylor All Star.
Being a child of the 60s, “Chucks” were the only choice for our basketball shoes. They came in black, white, high tops and low cuts. And as Porky Pig said, “That’s all folks.”
Thus, 0n November 1, 1966, I purchased a brand new pair of white low cuts for our high school basketball season. And, they cost me $7.99. Below, is my Washington Irving 1966 basketball team – all wearing Chuck Taylor All Stars. That’s me #42.
(L-R) Front: Jim Christie, Dave Curtis, Ron Fragale, Chuck Wilson, Derek Merchant, Me # 42, Marty Wilson
(L- R) Back: Coach Bob Camp, Junior Gowers, Marshall Pratt, Dave Wise, Spence White, Kevin Merchant, Larry Alvaro, Gene Mitchell, Mark Wiseman, Mark Lees
“Chucks” became more than a basketball shoe – they became a lifestyle, worn for all seasons and for all casual activities. When basketball season was over, I wore mine for track. The same pair served me on the tennis court and the baseball field. When school was out, I wore them fishing, to the lake, in my boat, seining for minnows with my friend Jim, hiking in the Veterans Memorial Park, mowing the lawn, crabbing, and to town shopping. About the only place I did not wear them was to church.
They were truly the “iron” sneaker. You could not kill them. When they became “grungy-dirty” or began to smell like a dead animal, they went into the washing machine and came out looking and smelling like new. Well, ‘sorta’ new. My “Chucks” were so durable, I was still wearing them 13 years after my high school graduation.
Granted, they showed their age: Permanent stains, missing eyelets, rips in the canvas and the rubber soles began to separate. But, regardless of how they looked, these “Chucks” served me for almost 14 years AND only cost $7.99. Perhaps it is time to re-enter our time machine and return to the present.
The other day, I saw where a retailer had a pair of Nike Air Jordan 7’s listed for $247. In 1966 we could have outfitted the entire varsity and junior varsity basketball team for that amount.
Today, my sneakers live a maximum of three years and cost slightly over $100. I guarantee these sneakers would never endure the active diversity, washings, and neglect inflicted upon of my youthful 1966 All Stars.
What you see below is my ‘Three Year Sneaker Clock.’ Every Spring I buy a new pair of sneakers (9 and 11 o’clock). The one-year- old sneakers (2 and 3 o’clock) become garden and yard shoes. The two-year-old sneakers (5 and 7 o’clock) become porch slides. I really loosen the laces, pull up on the tongue, tie a knot in the top eyelet and cut off the remaining length. They stay on the porch for quick trips to the yard and garage. No need to tie anything. Just slide’n and go!
Next Spring my “sliders” will be worn out and discarded and a new cycle will begin. The discouraging part: Today’s sneakers cost me in the $100-range and only last three years. My ‘Chucks’ lasted almost 14 years and cost $7.99. Here’s a thought: I just might try to wear my slides for another 12 years and see what they look like. On second thought, I will be 78 and probably forget where I left them.
For those seeking a new pair of All Stars, the good news is you can find them for under $50. Yes, they still make them but they are not designed for feet whose warranty is getting very close to the expiration date. Today, my feet demand more than what “Chuck’s” can provide.
However, “Chuck’s” are not only a part of my generation’s history, they are part of American history. During World War II, Taylor All Stars became the official sneaker of the United States military, used widely for exercising and training. When the National Basketball Association (NBA) was formed in 1949, Chuck Taylor All Stars were worn by all the professionals, followed shortly by college, high school and playground children everywhere. In 1957, the low cut All Star was introduced as a more casual alternative to the standard high tops. Also, the sneaker was unisex before the word unisex became trendy.
Currently, Converse makes them available in a variety of colors, models, prints, and patterns, but the basic design has changed little since 1949. The brand still has a strong following among the younger generations and baby boomers – boomers like me with better feet.
Chuck Taylor All Stars – a timeless sneaker; a sneaker being rediscovered by millions of people in each new generation of boys and girls, men and women. And, we can thank this man for creating memories that will be with us forever:
Charles ‘Chuck’ Taylor as he looked in 1921.
In 1968, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
He died at the age of 67 on June 23, 1969 in Port Charlotte, Florida.
My Converse All Stars were an important part of my youth and carried me through the early years of marriage. And, if you are of my generation, you probably have your own fond or perhaps not so fond memories of your All Stars. I would really enjoy hearing your stories, with the understanding they may be published, if not on The Clarksburg Post, on my website. Publishing your name would be your decision. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tell me what you remember about your “Chucks.”
“This One’s For You Chuck Taylor” – Thanks for the memories!
Until next time,