They were the wings for the soaring dunks of Dr. J and were on the feet of Bill Russell and Larry Bird as they left tread marks across Boston Garden’s parquet floor.
They gave extra jolt to Magic Johnson and “Showtime.” They were there for tennis stars Chris Evert’s and Jimmy Connors’ backhands at Wimbledon. And they were on stage for riffs by rock bands Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith.
From the first pair that rolled off the assembly lines in 1908, to the first pair of All Stars worn by Chuck Taylor himself in 1917, to the “Weapons” donned by Magic and Bird in the 1980s, Converse was to the athletic shoe industry what James Naismith was to basketball: a revolutionary.
At one time the shoe of choice by athletes, rockers and everyman alike, America’s original sneaker marks its 100th anniversary this year. It also celebrates a longevity that was unrivaled until a shift in the shoe industry in the late 1980s drove the company to the brink of extinction.
You see them everywhere,” says former longtime Converse employee Mike Blandini, now 78. “The Chuck Taylor has made its mark on the world.”
Marquis Converse founded the company in Malden, Mass., in February 1908. The first shoes to roll off the Converse Rubber Shoe Company were galoshes. In 1917, the company created a simple rubber-soled basketball shoe wrapped in canvas. They called it the All Star.