Every Wednesday, Yahoo invites you to learn more about a company. Little secrets, anecdotes, unusual stories, don’t miss the opportunity to impress your friends. For this 99th episode, let’s dig into the secrets of a legendary brand famous for its timeless shoes: Converse.
1 – Chuck Taylor, the man who really launched Converse
In the street, your dressing room, at work or on public transport, they are everywhere. Iconic, timeless and comfortable, Converse shoes have dressed the feet of tens of millions of human beings for more than a century. Founded in 1908 on the East Coast of the United States, north of Boston, by Marquis Mills Converse, the Converse Rubber Shoe Company began by producing lined shoes with rubber soles to prevent slipping. In 1917, Marquis Mills Converse diversified its business and launched into sports shoes for basketball players, a sport invented a few years earlier. At the time, the company set itself the challenge of attracting the greatest athletes. Successful bet.
In 1921, a young basketball player Chuck Taylor, who plays for the Akron Firestone team, meets Marquis Mills Converse to ask him for more comfortable shoes for playing basketball. He was so persuasive that Converse hired him as a salesman (basketball was unprofessional at the time) to promote the new pair of shoes nationwide. The success is such that Converse will write “Chuck Taylor” on its shoes from 1932. The collaboration between the young basketball player who became the standard of the brand and Converse will last until his death in 1969. More than 100 years after this meeting, the famous All Star or “Chuck Taylor” shoes remain the brand’s best-seller.
2 – The symbol of pop culture par excellence
From the 1960s, the Converse conquered a public other than sportsmen. It becomes the benchmark for young people, artists and the working class thanks to its attractive price. Adopted by movie stars, we find it at the feet of Marty McFly in the cult Back to the Future, Sylvester Stallone in Rocky or Daniel Radcliffe in the Harry Potter saga to name but a few.
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The world of music is not left out: Kurt Cobain, the reference of the grunge style, has often been photographed with Converse and Mick Jagger even wore a pair for his wedding. Just that. She also seduces the Ramones, U2, Green Day and even King Elvis Presley. In the 1960s, the legendary Massachusetts manufacturer was almost alone in the world, since it alone held 80% of the sneaker market share. Ironically, it was an athlete who marked the end of Converse’s golden age in the mid-1980s. His name? Michael Jordan.
3 – Saved from bankruptcy by Nike
1984. If you had a date to mark the beginning of Converse’s decline, it would undoubtedly be this one. Nike’s creation of the Air Jordans, named after the basketball legend, makes the “Chuck Taylor” look old-fashioned on the court. In the 1970s, new competitors such as Nike, Adidas and Reebok came to walk on Converse’s platforms to, in addition, give it a (big) look of old. And what had to happen, happened.
Unable to reinvent itself, the company barely survived until 2001 when, crippled with debt, it went bankrupt. Two years later, Nike bought the brand for 300 million dollars. The comma brand is relocating Converse manufacturing plants to Asia to cut costs. Nike also brings the Converse up to date by giving it a less “cheap” side thanks to numerous limited editions and a stronger presence in fashion stores. In 2015, Converse claims to have sold 1 billion pairs of “Chuck Taylor”.
4 – A pair of sneakers sold for more than 190,000 dollars
Decidedly, the image of Converse is closely linked to that of basketball. In 1984, Michael Jordan, who was about to join the Bulls, took part in the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The one who is not yet the best player in the NBA shines brightly on the floors of the City of Angels with his Converse brand shoes, white and blue.
He scored 20 points in the Olympic final against Spain to allow the United States to win gold (96-65). Thirty-three years later, in 2017, these legendary shoes bearing the autograph of the superstar came for 190,372 dollars during an online auction. A record for the iconic shoe brand.
5 – The new symbol of the fight against firearms in the United States?
On May 24, an 18-year-old opened fire on Tuesday at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 children and two adults. Following this new gun drama, American actor Matthew McConaughey told the story of Maite Rodriguez, who died at age 10 at her school. “These green Converse on her feet were the only sure way to identify her after the shooting. Isn’t that great?”, indignantly the actor, a native of Uvalde, his voice trembling at the White House.
Since this poignant speech, many Internet users have changed their profile picture on social networks to put on green Converse and this model was for a time out of stock on the American site of the brand. To mark the occasion, one of them even suggested that the brand rename the green “Chuck Taylors” to Maite Rodriguez.
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