News Column

How the Ssneakers Crept its Way Into Pop Culture Fashion

Feb 20, 2013

Euden Valdez, The Manila Times, Philippines


"We've also been around long enough to learn it's not about how old you are, but how good you are--and that everyone loves a good story."--Converse

Sneakers are shoes with rubber soles and because of its rubber soles, one wearing sneakers can actually walk quietly and "sneak up" on someone, hence the moniker.

The earliest forms of these rubber-soled shoes were called plimsolls and it was in the 1890s, when the sneakers we love today--with rubber soles and canvas upper--was first introduced to the US market.

Two decades later, Converse Rubber Company entered the scene and swept the American feet by storm. Founded in 1908 at Malden, Massachusetts by Marquis Mills Converse, the brand has been associated with basketball, rock n' roll, military wear, the arts, and finally, a footwear culture that is casual, fun and original.

According to the company's earliest catalog, Converse "would be independent enough not to follow every other company in everything they do." After a century of "sole-ful" and colorful history, Converse's identity became a symbol of originality.

Beginnings in basketball As early as 1910, Converse was reportedly selling 4,000 pairs of sneakers daily. A newborn in the shoe industry, Converse was also initially associated to a young sport back then--Basketball.

The relationship between the two became stronger in the 1920s when basketball player Charles "Chuck" Taylor joined the company. A passionate sportsman, Chuck Taylor not only sold basketball, but also the shoes he wore while playing.

From then on, the Converse sneakers got Taylor's signature and became immortalized as the Chuck Taylor All Star. This shoe line also became the no. 1 choice of basketball players and the official footwear of the National Basketball Association for many years to come.

Besides Chuck Taylor, Converse also signed another sportsman, badminton champion Jack Purcell, for a new line of athletic shoes in 1935. Purcell, wearing his own signature shoes, won five consecutive Canadian championships.

In the 60s and 70s, Converse got a rebellious sporty vibe when it launched the Pro Leather collection that used leather for the upper instead of the favorite canvas. This sturdy footwear with the famous Converse logo immediately became a hit among skateboarders.

Sneaker revolution Throughout the years, athletes were not the only ones who wore Converse. When the going got tough during the World War II, it's very clever owners decided to create foot wear for the US military.

According to Converse's website, its product range from 1938 to 1948 included "footwear, apparel, boots for pilots and army servicemen, [as well as] parkas, and rubber protective suits and ponchos."

When the rock and roll music era began in the 1940s, Converse All Stars became the shoes that went with the black leather jacket and the rugged blue denims. Together with the high-cut Chucks, the rock and roll "outfit" was made. It was also during this era that Chuck Taylor All Stars in different colors were introduced.

It was in the 1970s that rockers found new choices with the release of the All Star Pro Leather collection..

At the beginning of the 20th century, Converse introduced more innovative shoes such as The Weapon, the All Star 2000, and many others.

Converse in the Philippines From being the sportsman's, military's and rockstar's shoes, Converse became everyone's favorite footwear. And Filipinos were among those who have fallen in love with the shoe's signature identity and fashion statement.

This year, Converse once again made history as it opened its first flagship store in the Philippines as part of its 30th anniversary here.

Located at the New Glorietta in Makati City, Converse Philippines flagship store will continue to provide Filipinos with quality footwear matched with a new shopping experience.

"If you look into our flagship store, we divided them into different segments," shares Steve Parker, Converse Asia Pacific vice president, to The Manila Times during the recent store opening.

These segments, according Parker were the Court for the athletic, the Street for the artistic, the Backstage for the fashionistas, and the Studio for the musicians. All these were laid out strategically and aesthetically within the 275-square meter flagship store. It is also the largest Converse shop in the country to date.

"What you will see here in the flagship store are the latest collections we have developed in the United States," Parker lastly said.

These new collections can be seen from the different merchandise available at the sore ranging from the well-loved Chuck Taylors, Jack Purcells, Cons and John Varvatos, to Converse apparel, bags and accessories.

Source: (c)2013 The Manila Times (Manila, Philippines). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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