I’m not afraid of change. I largely live in Guatemala, work for companies all over the world, get paid via PayPal and other means and use an ATM card just as you would. This would, quite simply, not have been possible more than a decade ago. That does not, however, mean that Converse should me “modernizing” the classic All-Star that first went into production in Malden, MA nearly 100 years ago.
Converse’s new headquarters and changing something that needn’t be changed
Converse moved into a historic building in Boston that was built in 1907 last year and went about completely renovating to fit its needs. Shortly after moving into the building, the company did something nearly unthinkable, it redesigned its iconic best selling shoe, the Chuck Taylor. However, the shoe largely looked the same, it simply incorporated new cushioning and fabric to make them more comfortable. I was, for the most part okay with that.
“We realized it was going to be the first step of a greater journey,” creative director Bryan Cioffi recently explained to Fast Company. “We wanted to make technology, modern construction, and high-level design part of our identity.”
And now, it’s becoming clear that Converse is now set to take its bag of tricks to a level beyond acceptable. What’s wrong with uncomfortable shoes that are nothing short of a classic?
With the new “All-Star” offering, Converse has gone to far in ditching the canvas for some weird ass lightweight knit and a modern minimalistic interpretation of a classic.
“We wanted to aim for something you could wear all day and never get fatigue,” Cioffi says. “Something you wouldn’t want to kick off your feet as soon as you come through the door.”
That’s all well and good if these things weren’t hideous looking.
The history of the All-Star back to 1920
The All-Star was essentially the first shoe designed specifically for basketball, a sport that was only just beginning to draw an interest when the All-Star was imagined. Converse essentially had brand ambassadors before they had a market and hired a number of coaches to go into schools wearing the All-Stars and teach the game of basketball. Basketball and Michael Jordon made Nike a giant and launched them into all facets of shoe and equipment manufacturing but it was Converse that was the pioneer of the sport. Once of those coaches hired by the company, and one of its most popular among the kids, was the aforementioned Chuck Taylor.
The All-Star is about style these days and the idea of actually playing in them boggles the mind a bit.
“Back then, every little part of the shoe had a very specific purpose. If you think about how much Nike invests in innovation, we were doing the same thing back then around canvas basketball shoes,” said Samuel Smallidge, Converse’s resident historian told Fast Company.
“The thing that we loved about the story of the shoe is that every single thing was considered,” Cioffi says. “In the early 1920s, it was the most innovative, best-in-class material that you could possibly use. The team that designed the All Star Modern put themselves in that mind-set.
That is a delightful story and I’m glad that Fast Company’s recent pice enlightened me and presented me with a nice read. (It should be said that I don’t love that we’ve gotten to a point in time that Fast Company feels the need to tell me that its piece is a “six minute read” above the title, but I guess that’s the world we now live in these days)
That, however, just doesn’t work for me and doesn’t allow me to forgive Converse for this abomination.
By all means, tell me I’m wrong. It is quite possible that I’m getting to that age where I actually do fear change and equally fear that one of these days I’m going to hear myself mutter something about “those damn kids.”