The Retro Icon Chuck Taylors Get A Comfy New Look
Converse plans on answering this long-standing critique Thursday when it unveils a spiffier, pricier version of the nearly century-old sneakers. The biggest upgrade in the Chuck II, as the company is calling the revamped shoes, comes with technology imported for the first time from corporate parent Nike. Lunarlon, a lightweight, bouncy foam used in Nike’s running and basketball shoes, will now be found in Chuck’s rubber sole.
Creating a more supportive shoe doesn’t sound like a groundbreaking project for a sneaker manufacturer, but few brands are quite as conservative as Converse. Simply messing with the Chuck Taylor All Star — as the iconic shoes are officially called — strikes fear into Converse fans and executives alike. The old-style Chucks are one of the best-selling shoes of all time, with more than 1 billion pairs sold, and still account for a majority of Converse’s revenue. In short, people like the shoe as it has been and don’t want to see it change. Calhoun says he gets letters imploring him not to screw it up or “put a swoosh on it.” (That’s not happening, by the way.)
Chucks are that rare product that has remained a pop-culture mainstay for decades, worn by no less than JFK, the Ramones, Kurt Cobain, and Miley Cyrus. Inside the company, executives attribute much of that success to staying the same, staying classic, staying moderately uncomfortable. “We’ve never sold more Chuck Taylors, and the company has never been as big or profitable as it is today without changing the product,” says Calhoun. “One of the curses of having an icon is a fear — particularly in the midst of success — of doing any changes.”