|Converse. They are more than just shoes, nostalgia, or a fashion statement. The history of Converse shoes spans the history of 20th century America and the evolution of basketball. Converse shoes revolutionized the sport of basketball and witnessed the birth of rock and roll. Sixty percent of all American own or have owned at least one pair of Converse sneakers. In 1908, Marquis M. Converse, in his late 30's and previously a respected manager at a footwear manufacturing firm, opened the Converse Rubber Shoe Company for business in Malden, Massachusetts and begins providing winterized rubber soled footwear for men, women, and children. By 1910 Converse Rubber Company was producing 4,000 pairs of shoes daily, but it wasn't until 1915 that the company began manufacturing athletic shoes for tennis. Basketball, less than 25 years old, was revolutionized in 1917 when Converse designed and produced the world's first performance basketball shoes, the Converse All Star. |
In 1918, Charles H. "Chuck" Taylor, a basketball player for the Akron Firestones, acquires his first pair of All Star basketball shoes and backed by Converse, he introduces the game of basketball to Americans across the country; all while wearing his Converse All Stars. Chuck Taylor officially joined Converse in 1921 as America's first player endorser, and in 1923 after publishing a retrospective on the first 60 years of basketball and teaching his first basketball clinic at North Carolina State University, his signature was added to the All Star patch. This decision marks the defining moment in the history of Converse shoes and gives birth to an American icon. Chuck Taylor, known as the "Ambassador of Basketball", then launched into a 35 year "evangelist tour" to introduce and teach basketball to America. Converse also customizes shoes for the New York Renaissance (the "Rens"), basketball's first all African American pro basketball team. The "Rens" pioneered a whole new method of playing and won a remarkable 2,588 games with only 539 losses.
Converse steamed ahead through the 1920's and 1930's as the nation's interest in basketball surges. Converse and basketball became synonymous as the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star became the standard issue basketball shoes for professional, college, and high school teams across the country. A few highlights include:
1935 Jack Purcell, a world-famous badminton and tennis player, designed a durable performance court shoe with a rubber "Smile" in the middle of the toe. The shoe became known as the Converse Jack Purcell.
1935 Chuck Taylor invents the modern basketball - a "stitchless" leather basketball with a truer bounce.
1936 Basketball is played as an official Olympic sport for the first time. The U.S. team in Converse All Star shoes defeated Canada 19-8 to win the gold medal.
1939 The fist NCAA championship basketball tournament was held. Both teams wore Converse All Stars.
1941 December 7, 1941, America enters World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.