Back and better than ever: the cultural legacy of Converse

Back and better than ever: the cultural legacy of Converse

by Ollie Cox
3 min

Converse have been seen on the feet of some of the coolest people in history, from James Dean to Kurt Kobain. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that these shoes are a favourite of the fashion crowd and have featured amongst the coolest collaborations. 


The classic Chuck has been doing the rounds recently, worn by tastemakers such as A$AP Nast and the silhouette of choice for Our Legacy and Stüssy’s latest offering. Like the adidas Samba, the Converse has always been in style thanks to a strong subcultural rooting. To understand the importance of Converse in the fashion industry, we need to go back to the beginning. 

Founded in 1908 by Mr Marquis Mills Converse in Malden, Massachusetts, the company was first known for making just about anything it could, from rubber to car tyres to Duck hunting boots. The basketball shoes we know today were initially to keep the staff working through the summer months, a decision that would be responsible for Converse’s climb to the top. ©

The Converse All-Star wasn’t the first basketball sneaker to be designed, but it did have an edge over its competitors. A heel patch supposedly offered protection to the ankle bone, but it was the tread pattern that set the shoes apart. Still present on the shoes today, it allowed athletes to push off in different directions and, importantly, be able to stop quickly. 

Chuck Taylor was hired in 1922 as a basketball coach and salesperson, who was later awarded his name on the heel of the shoe, leading the Converse “All Stars” basketball team and promoting the brand’s trainers. However, by the end of the 1970s, new technology was being introduced by competitors such as Nike. 

Converse/ Our Legacy Workshop/ Stüssy ©

This was a turning point for Converse, as people began to favour technology-focused shoes. Luckily a low-top style was introduced, which struck a chord with a new audience. 

The Chuck Taylor became a symbol for rebellion, adopted by punk rockers such as the Sex Pistols and The Ramones, who used the Chuck in their rejection of the establishment, subverting the traditionally sporty shoe, and its capitalist associations for its “F*ck You!” agenda.

Later came grunge, a down-tuned distorted take on rock that made Converse a staple in its wardrobe. Kurt Kobain became grunge’s poster boy, pairing his cons with slouchy knitwear and stone wash denim, a look that would still slap today. 

@jessefrohman ©

This subcultural appeal and general wearability has kept Chuck Taylor relevant in the fashion world, with the iconic trainer being the feature of collaborations with Off-White, Our Legacy Workshop, A Cold Wall, Rick Owens, GOLF le FLEUR* and Sky High Farm, to name a few. 

Thanks to a solid design and subcultural appeal, Converse has maintained a favorability with just about everyone, cementing itself as a timeless sneaker above the trend cycle. What do you think; are Converse the coolest sneakers around? 

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