July 11, 2003 9:07 AM   Subscribe

Chucks News of Nike's buyout of Converse got me thinking about the oldest sneakers around. I don't mean that crusty pair buried in your closet, unless it's (likely for some of us) the Chuck Taylor All-Star basketball shoe. Sure, some of us wouldn't be caught in a pair, but as the choice of legends, the uniform footwear of baby-boomer youth (knock-offs were worn at risk of mild derision) and as a cultural mission statement, this 80-year-old low-tech affair is still chuck-full of game, and still as affordable as that other guy's shoe isn't. Fortunately for the shoe's many adoring fans, the word is that the Star won't be replaced by a Swoosh.
posted by LinusMines (39 comments total)
In the Midwest, Chucks are the emo kid's shoe of choice. I have had long conversations about them and spent a good deal of time out with friends who were looking for some specific and elusive color that no one else had.

A year ago, I was in Minneapolis on a church trip and I bought a sea green pair of Chucks while I was there. The next morning we were working in a soup kitchen and it at least half a dozen homeless men asked me if it was a new color and where I got them. Apparently they're fans of the shoe too.
posted by katieinshoes at 9:18 AM on July 11, 2003

Hi-Top Chucks have represented 98% of my personal footwear for the past 18 years. Who are these people who wouldn't be caught dead in them? I'm glad I don't know anybody like that. I will be buried in a pair of Chucks.
posted by spilon at 9:22 AM on July 11, 2003

I have this pair. They're my faves.
posted by jpoulos at 9:25 AM on July 11, 2003

Who are these people who wouldn't be caught dead in them?

I, for one. Chuck Taylors give me culture cliche advert seizures in the same way VW Passats do. I suppose one must separate product from advertising/cultural context, but I can't.
posted by the fire you left me at 9:31 AM on July 11, 2003

Chucks are a true classic, O.K., but I'm partial to Jack Purcell's
posted by matteo at 9:31 AM on July 11, 2003

Ahh yes... Chucks. The shoes of conformists and homeless people.

"How rebellious... in a conformist sort of way."
posted by bondcliff at 9:42 AM on July 11, 2003

'Sneakers'? When I was a kid, I had daps. From Woolworths.
posted by carter at 9:52 AM on July 11, 2003

With all the news about Liberia lately, does anyone else get a frisson of cognitive dissonance whenever they mention "indicted war criminal Charles Taylor..."? In my mind, he's always wearing Chucks.
posted by rusty at 9:56 AM on July 11, 2003

I had one pair of chucks, when I was 16. Wore out in six months. I don't put up with shoes that only last six months.
posted by ursus_comiter at 10:02 AM on July 11, 2003

Well, since I won't purchase Nike products it looks like I'm going to have to find a different shoe style to buy. Anyone know of another cheap non-leather shoe?
posted by spork at 10:04 AM on July 11, 2003

"How rebellious... in a conformist sort of way."

I make a point of wearing a Japanese geta sandal on my right foot and a delicate robin's nest on my left foot to prove to the world just how unique I am.
posted by monkey.pie.baker at 10:05 AM on July 11, 2003

I wanted to look good in Chuck's, I tried for years. But it is a sad fact that when you wear a size 13 and are somewhat less tall than Wilt the Stilt, Chuck's tend to make you look like you have clown feet.
posted by pejamo at 10:08 AM on July 11, 2003

You too, Monkey.pie.baker? Crap... now I have to find something new to wear.
posted by bondcliff at 10:09 AM on July 11, 2003

I wear almost nothing but Chucks, and have for years. I don't know how to feel about this. I mean, it's better than not having any Chucks at all, I guess. I'm no Nike fan, but all corporations are evil to a greater or lesser extent, right? *sigh*

(I confess, when they declared bankruptcy, I bought 5 hold-out pairs. I'm down to my last 2 though.)
posted by JoanArkham at 10:12 AM on July 11, 2003

man. how can you guys wear those things? they hurt my feet SO BAD. i'm almost better off going barefoot.

that being said, I almost bid on a pair of low-top chucks worn by Luke Wilson in "charlie's angels 2" on ebay. I think they even went for under $100. i guess luke gets no love.
posted by chrisege at 10:13 AM on July 11, 2003

Anyone know of another cheap non-leather shoe?

I have a pair of Puma "woolies" that're made of some synthetic that's like suede crossed with felt. I think they might be kinda hard to find though - i've only seen them once. they were reasonably cheap though - $60.
posted by chrisege at 10:16 AM on July 11, 2003

Spork, are you in the US? Payless has a good few non-leather shoes that are cheap. However, the cheapness can play itself out by making your feet hurt, IME.

Recently, I shelled out for some more expensive non-leather shoes and have been pretty happy.
posted by ursus_comiter at 10:17 AM on July 11, 2003

Weirdly, in combination with a couple layers of socks (wool-nylon ragg-blend over rayon liners), the high-top variety has proven to be a comfortable lightweight shoe for daypacking on improved trails. But I still prefer boots with some serious ankle support.
posted by alumshubby at 10:18 AM on July 11, 2003

JoanArkham, I couldn't agree more. I love my Chucks. I've worn out pair after pair of black low-top Chuck Taylor All-Stars since I was fourteen years old (almost ten years, that is). I own two pairs right now -- they are a big part of my "personal brand."

I do tend to have a tough time with the "big corporation" aspect of our consumer culture, however, but it is virtually impossible to avoid these days. I'll resign myself to that fact for my shoes, I guess. Sellout? Maybe, but that's something I'll have to deal wiith on a personal level.

And chrisege, in-soles are a must. I never needed them until last year, when for some reason I couldn't wear my beloved Chucks without my feet screaming at me in pain. The arch supports did the trick though, so no worries. I just take it as a sign that I am getting older, although I don't like to admit it.
posted by ScottUltra at 10:23 AM on July 11, 2003

Damn. I'm really getting old. What I meant to say is that I've been wearing Chucks for almost twenty years. I must really be losing it (or time is passing much too quickly)!
posted by ScottUltra at 10:27 AM on July 11, 2003

I had to order my first pair of lo-tops from an appliance and sporting goods store (yeah, I thought it was weird, too) because nobody stocked them in smaller sizes. Not wanting to wear gigantic basketball or "cross-training" or some other specialized shoe put me in the minority back then.

I like that they're just sneakers. They've got no other purpose than to bum around town in 'em, and since that's the kind of exercise I usually engage in, they're perfect for me.
posted by stefanie at 10:36 AM on July 11, 2003

I've been promising myself to look at a pair of Chuck's for a while but keep forgetting. They look like they'd be good for weight lifting at the gym. Most cross trainers and such are wedge shaped and so pitch you forward when you do squats or dead lifts which adds up to more stress on the knees. I'm using some sort of skate boarding shoe right now but they're wearing out. Also they look like the soles don't give very much, which adds to stability.

I'm not at all sure I'd like them for day to day use but I think they'd be reasonable for that.
posted by substrate at 10:36 AM on July 11, 2003

Back in the day, punks wore Chucks because they were practically the cheapest sneaks available and they looked so awful that they approached coolness from the other way around.

Then they became a fashion statement.

So, of course, punks being the most doctrinaire and image-conscious folks on the planet, Chucks were declared no longer cool (this also applies to Husker Du signing to Warner Bros, Henry Rollins' solo career, and ska).

So, now that they aren't cool anymore, I guess it's OK to wear them again.

(I still have a pair of black high-top Chucks that I break out and wear to shows just to let the youngsters know that I'm still not cool, and wasn't really all that cool back in the day, either.)

We're not the first
hope we're not the last
Though I know we're all headed
for that adult crash....

posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:05 AM on July 11, 2003

Back in the day, punks wore Chucks because they were practically the cheapest sneaks available and they looked so awful that they approached coolness from the other way around.

In my part of the Midwest (the middle coast, MKE, WI) punks wear chucks, emo and hardcore kidz wear newports or New Balance, which ever looks like a grandpa shoe or DC shoe company.

Having said that, I only own two pairs of shoes. A pair of Chucks that I rarely wear, mainly for biking, and because they don't kill my feet if I don't wear socks, and a pair of tanker combat boots.

Why tanker boots? For some reason, my shoes don't stay tied, and tanker boots don't have laces. Most comfortable pair of shoes I've ever owned.
posted by drezdn at 11:43 AM on July 11, 2003

Fortunately for the shoe's many adoring fans, the word is that the Star won't be replaced by a Swoosh.

Unfortunately, the practice of making at least some of the All Stars in the US will probably end, and they'll all be made overseas like Nike's other shoes.

It is harder and harder to buy American-made shoes. New Balance still makes some models here. That, and the excellent fit, are the reason their seen on the feet of so many lefties.

Fearing something like this would happen, I've got 3 pairs of Chucks in reserve, so they should last me quite a few years.
posted by trigfunctions at 12:01 PM on July 11, 2003

I never got the appeal of Chucks. Then again, I have a hard time accepting the concept of canvas footwear.

OTOH, I am a die-hard brainwashed cultist devotee of New Rocks.
posted by sigma7 at 12:08 PM on July 11, 2003

Ponys Rock!

"Im old school like ma daddy's shoe"
posted by Dr_Octavius at 12:20 PM on July 11, 2003

I got my first pair of Chucks (purple) in 1981 because I had a crush on a new wave guy who wore them, and have worn Chucks almost exclusively since. (Exceptions: I usually keep a pair of red Keds around, though they don't fit well; I have a pair of Doc Martens I wore for a while; I usually have some black boots around somewhere; and I always have one pair of black dress shoes for the rare funeral, wedding, or job interview.)

I wish I had kept track of all the pairs of Chucks I've owned. I know I've had purple, burgundy, sky blue, all black (including the sole and star), Christmas red and green (with green soles and a wreath around the star - I still have this pair and wear it every December), red (current pair), green, regular black, navy blue, pink, lavender... They are the only shoes that fit my wedge-shaped feet (EE in the toes, C in the heel) without pinching the toes. My orthotics fit in them nicely (and solve the foot support problem that the shoes tend to have). And best of all, I can buy them without trying them on first, since men's size 4 1/2 always fits me.

How can anyone not like these shoes? They are so darned much fun.
posted by litlnemo at 1:16 PM on July 11, 2003

I wore these things (black low tops were my first) way back when I was in elementary school. I guess my mom was more hip than I give her credit. About 12 years ago I had these glow in the dark leopard print ones that I loved, I wish I still had a pair of them. I liked them better than my hawaiian print Vans that I had 20 years ago even. Blech nike......
posted by Eekacat at 1:22 PM on July 11, 2003

BTW, those looking for unusual Chuck styles should check out Jack's Shoes. I haven't ordered from them in the past year or so, but they were very nice and quick with shipment the last time I did.
posted by JoanArkham at 1:56 PM on July 11, 2003

I love my Chucks. I have had at least one pair of Chucks or Jacks (Jack Purcells) every point of the way since grade school (too many years ago). They even saw me through those dark years in the late 80s early 90s when Converse stopped making the the canvas models.

For the life of me, I have never been able to understand how real hoops players wore these things during games and didn't end up with plantar fascia injuries. Talk about no support!

And the Emo kid thing? Oh yeah (sniff), how original! What, did someone see a Ian MacKaye wearing a pair in an old Minor Threat picture, and decided that they had to be punk? Whatever.
posted by psmealey at 2:00 PM on July 11, 2003

Back in college, I showed up for a date wearing my treasured tri-color Chucks. She was wearing *her* treasured pair of tri-colored Chucks, too.

In the end, that relationship didn't go anywhere...but that Emily, she was a cool chick.
posted by adamrice at 4:05 PM on July 11, 2003

Anyone know of another cheap non-leather shoe?

Vans, but a lot of their styles use suede trim (these were my favorite).
posted by eddydamascene at 5:30 PM on July 11, 2003

Vans, but a lot of their styles use suede trim

You can get the Old Skool Classic style in all-canvas on their site. Unfortunately they currently only have it in Navy. There used to also be a black.

Unfortunately, the practice of making at least some of the All Stars in the US will probably end, and they'll all be made overseas like Nike's other shoes.

The last U.S.-made All-Stars were made in 2001 in North Carolina. Converse shut down the plant and now all the All-Stars come out of China. Their other shoes have been made in China for awhile now.
posted by gluechunk at 10:44 PM on July 11, 2003

actually, I meant to say Asia and not China, although the All-Stars primary come out of China.
posted by gluechunk at 10:54 PM on July 11, 2003

Jack's shoes...

Once I drove to Jack's Shoes (in Madison, WI) from Milwaukee (an 80 mile drive) to buy a pair of all black chucks for a girl for christmas.

In the end, nothing came of it.

posted by drezdn at 11:56 PM on July 11, 2003

Last real punk I was friends with wore lineman's boots. Like combat boots except they go all the way up yer calves.
posted by alumshubby at 12:26 AM on July 12, 2003

You know, I was sorely tempted to buy a pair of those the last time I bought shoes (which was like a week or two ago), but after a long, conflicted while, I decided that it would be false, an attempt to return to a time and place that, for me anyways, never really existed. Hell, if you're truly punk, or bohemian, or cool, or whatever Chuck Taylors are supposed to symbolise, you don't need a pair of brand name shoes to tell people that, do you?
posted by arto at 2:16 AM on July 12, 2003

the best part about the articles about converse was finally some publication that Hurley was a Nike company. Think anyone will notice, or will they continue thinking they are all "independent" and whatnot.
posted by djspicerack at 8:17 AM on July 14, 2003

« Older Nature's Rings   |   Blair Redux Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments