Iconic American sportswear brand Converse markets, distributes and licenses footwear, apparel and accessories. Established in 1908 by Marquis Mills Converse as Converse Rubber Shoe Company in Malden, Massachusetts it is a subsidiary of Nike Inc. since 2003.
Originally known for producing winter rubber shoes and boots.. Converse later shifted its focus to military footwear during World War II. While initially dominating the athletic shoe market in the United States, Converse faced stiff competition in the Seventies as rival brands introduced their own styles. However the brand has maintained its prominence through a diverse portfolio that includes Chuck Taylor All-Star, Cons, Jack Purcell, One Star and Star Chevron.
Today Converse has a widespread retail presence, operating roughly a hundred company-owned stores in the United States and sixty-three in international markets up till 2019. The growth of Converse as a casual fashion accessory reportedly contributed to an estimated $2.4 billion in revenue in 2023.
It all began with a fall down the stairs. The injured man, Marquis Mills Converse, who was manager at a footwear manufacturing firm, came up with the concept of creating shoes with rubber soles so that this incident wouldn’t reoccur. In 1908, he founded Converse Rubber Shoe Company, which at that time sold boots with rubber soles.
By 1915 the company was manufacturing athletic shoes and in two years introduced Converse All-Star basketball shoe. In 1923 basketball player Chuck Taylor walked into the store complaining of sore feet. Within a year the company remodelled a pair of shoes with more support and flexibility; the world’s first performance shoes for basketball was named Chuck Taylor All Stars. In a marketing move that would prove to be iconic.. Converse hired him as brand ambassador. Taylor organised basketball clinics across the US to promote the brand and in 1936, Chuck Taylor All Star was official shoe of Team USA at the first-ever basketball championship at Summer Olympic Games held in Berlin. When the United States entered World War II in 1941, Converse began production of rubberised footwear, outerwear and protective suits for the military. During this time Chuck Taylor served as physical fitness instructor for the military before resuming his career as a salesman.
At its peak, the brand reportedly had eighty per cent market share of the sneaker segment in the US. In the Seventies, Converse acquired its competitor PF Flyers. In 1975 the brands split due to an anti-trust lawsuit but Converse kept the trademark rights of the Jack Purcell line it had purchased from the PF Flyers acquisition and it is produced and sold till date. Despite its heritage as the chart-topping basketball shoe, a change of fortune was in store. The brand lost its strength with the passing of Chuck Taylor in 1968 a year after he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
By the late Seventies high-tech performance trainers from rival brands Nike Adidas and Puma entered the market and Converse lost its monopoly. When Reebok introduced new designs and technology in performance shoes Converse was no longer official shoe of the National Basketball Association. The brand’s brief revival in the Eighties and Nineties, with Kurt Cobain as its poster boy, marked a shift in brand image. With affordability and stellar design as its strength, Converse sneakers was carving a niche in the casual footwear segment after legendary actor James Dean wore Jack Purcell Converse shoes in the Fifties.
However, debt piled up and the company filed for bankruptcy on January 22, 2001 and its last manufacturing plants in the U.S. shut. In April 2001, Footwear Acquisitions, led by Marsden Cason and Bill Simon, purchased the company and turned it around. On September 4, 2003 Nike acquired Converse for an estimated $315 million – two years after the latter filed for bankruptcy. The brand image underwent another transformation as Nike steered Converse away from its performance shoes towards prolific collaborations with fashion brands Givenchy, Missoni and Maison Martin Margiela.
Recent artistic alliances include a limited edition capsule of Chuck Taylor All Stars inspired by Nate Lowman’s slashed canvases, with each pair selling for $25,000. The formula worked — Converse raked in reported $1.4bn in 2012. With President and CEO Scott Uzzell at the helm, however the brand has begun a significant re-entry in basketball. Kelly Oubre Jr. was the first player to try out a pair of shoes that combined Converse’s traditional silhouette with Nike’s modern technology. In 2020, the brand inked deals with Draymond Green, Natasha Cloud and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Today the classic Converse styles continue to dominate the sportswear market. As the brand states, “When you wear Converse products you create a culture of authentic street style simply by being yourself. Whether they’re on the feet of a 70s basketball star in a history book or on the street with you today Chucks have always signified cool… because you wear them. We don’t know where you’ll go but we know yo’’ll take Converse to the future with you.”
Converse envisions empowering the youth by celebrating freedom of expression through the design aesthetic. The design team constantly evolve to think and behave in new ways to ensure that the brand continues to stand for creativity, rebellion and daring spirit for the next hundred years.
Committed to employing a diverse workforce, and working with and providing reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities.
Converse is recognized for its iconic timeless styles. The brand’s most notable product line is the Chuck Taylor All-Star which has become synonymous with Converse. These classic sneakers feature a canvas upper, rubber sole, and distinctive ankle patch with the signature of basketball player Chuck Taylor. Converse is also recognized for Cons, Jack Purcell, One Star and Star Chevron, each with its own unique design elements and loyal fan base. The brand’s commitment to quality craftsmanship and a wide range of collaborations with designers and artists further contribute to its recognition and status in the footwear industry.
Converse is acclaimed for sports shoes. Chuck Taylor All-Stars- originally created as basketball shoes in the early 1900s- gained popularity when Chuck Taylor collaborated with Converse to enhance their design for better support and flexibility. With Taylor’s signature added to the ankle patch they became known as Chuck Taylor All Stars. In 1986 Converse introduced The Weapon: a basketball shoe endorsed by Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. It featured leather construction and was available in different color schemes to match team kits. Before “The Weapon” Converse had launched other basketball shoes like “One Star” (19744) “Pro Leather” (1976) and “Starion” (1984). In 2015 Converse released the Chuck Taylor II: a redesigned version of the Chuck Taylor All-Star that incorporated Nike technology while maintaining the original appearance. These are just a few of its iconic products!