100 Years of Converse

Converse is still celebrating its greatest icon — Chuck Taylor All Star shoes — over one hundred years from its inception. They are also recognizing the creative talents of those who have turned Chucks into works of art.

The shoe appeals to artists across the spectrum, from Pattie Smith to Andy Warhol. They, and others like them, have customized their sneakers into well-worn and comfortable artworks. The fun is not just for the elite, either; your neighborhood musician or the Millennial office worker are getting into the swing of things, with paint and glue and glitter and . . . you name it, its been put on a Converse!

Marketing consultant Max Frieberg says The time is ripe to celebrate Converse consumers who have helped the style to thrive. Their Made By You campaign is going strong, spotlighting both celebrities and regular people who have turned the shoe into a platform for their art.

Customized Chucks are featured in murals and art installations across the globe, from New York to Shanghai. Visitors can don a pair of 3-D glasses at some installations to see iconic Chucks in virtual reality. Video and social media are in full play with the Chucks brand as well.

Chucks, which is owned by Nike, is creating a social art gallery of sorts, says Joan Rafferty, of Rafferty Media. Their Made By You ad campaign uses the two most powerful social tools available — namely, customization and graphic storytelling. Their hashtag #ChuckTaylor allows consumers to sincerely express themselves and it also generates a performance venue for the Chucks brand.

The history of Chucks begins with Chuck Taylor, who decided to change careers from basketball to shoe sales. He was amazingly successful, and it wasnt long before ninety percent of professional and college basketball players were wearing them. Rocker, rappers, and athletes still recognize the ambience of the famous sneaker. They were used as training shoes during World War Two. Elvis Presley wore them constantly. So did Kurt Cobain. And in 1962 the amazing Wilt Chamberlain scored one hundred points in one single game while wearing the ubiquitous canvas sneakers.

The sneakers remain a vital force in the culture of young America. Rapper Whiz Kalifa refers to them often in his sing-song verse.

Although the company faced some stiff challenges, including bankruptcy in 2001, it was acquired by Nike in 2003 for $305 million; in recent years it has been earning its keep, and then some. Last year it posted over $434 million in revenue each quarter.

Converse branding now looks beyond its All-American motif to focus on individuality and independence. This seems to be working; sales are up 71% in the past five years. Its a branding strategy that can handle a lot of traffic.

Rafferty says This Made By You campaign is going to be around for a long time, because it resonates with a very large and affluent demographic — Millennials and younger who need tradition with their prestige. Chucks provides that message in huge doses, and would be smart to continue to do so.

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Melissa Thompson

Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of HarcourtHealth.com and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.