There is no record of a basketball player named Chuck Taylor actually taking the court for a professional team—though he is said to have played for such squads as the Buffalo Germans and Original Celtics. His legacy shines bright, however, as the basketball shoes that bear his name worn by everybody who wants to appear rebellious, from the Sex Pistols to the Ramones to Nick Jonas, are turning 100 this year.
Nike, which bought Chuck Taylor-owner Converse in 2003 for around $305 million, is celebrating with a new shoe design and a new ad campaign. The latter features Millie Bobby Brown, the breakout star of the hit Netflix science fiction action series Stranger Things.
The new shoes, known as the Chuck Modern collection, are the fourth iteration of the iconic All Star — and the first offering from three execs who jointed Converse from Nike last summer when Converse president and CEO Jim Calhoun exited.
Now steering the brand: Davide Grasso, formerly chief marketing officer of Nike, who’s now the president and chief executive of Converse; Sean McDowell, vice president of design and innovation; and Julien Cahn, formerly senior marketing director at Nike and now Converse’s chief marketing officer.
“We are fortunate to have built a strong and deep bench of talent across our organization,” Mark Parker, Nike Inc.’s president and CEO, said in a statement on the executive shuffle. “As we move forward to deliver our long-term goals, the leadership changes we are announcing today will help us to continue to drive growth around the world.”
The hope is for the new shoes and the new campaign to make Converse more attractive “with today’s youth in a competitive sneaker market,” according to Business of Fashion. The Chuck Modern, of course, comes in both a standard and a luxe version, but it’s not as chi-chi as 2015’s Chuck II premium version, which failed to move the needle on sales and was deemed too pricey by analysts.
Continuing its longstanding designer collaborations for the show, Converse is also launching a Chuck Taylor collection with a retro feel and a futuristic name, the Converse x Fragment Design Tuxedo collection. These shoes are designed by Hiroshi Fujiwara, who is famed for turning Tokyo’s Harajuku neighborhood in Shibuya into a fiefdom of funkdom through his streetwear and injection of youth culture.
The shoe’s centenary is being celebrated in a global marketing campaign called Forever Chuck, which launched on Feb. 13 on YouTube and the brand’s social media channels with a clip of Brown pointing out that some of the coolest firm characters (Ally Sheedy’s Allison Reynolds in The Breakfast Club, Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly in Back to the Future) have worn Chucks.
In the video, Converse stylist Stephanie Collie tells Brown why she thinks Chucks are always worn by underdogs. A second video, released on Feb. 17, features rapper Vince Staples, graffiti artist Spanto and NBA Los Angeles Lakers star Jordan Clarkson talking about how Chucks have shaped LA’s youthful style and hip hop culture.
More short films are planned in the global campaign, which will be found where kids are these days: Instagram Stories and Snapchat, among other social hangouts. Other stars being featured in #ForeverChuck include young British actress Maisie Williams, aka Arya Stark in Game of Thrones.
— Converse (@Converse) February 23, 2017
In addition, Converse has created the Forever Chuck Social Lookbook Series, which allows consumers to look back through the brand’s history in different cities and eras, Nylon reports.
What’s evident in all of this is that Chucks aren’t being marketed as basketball shoes anymore. The last NBA player to wear canvas Chucks in a game was Tree Rollins in the 1979-80 season. Leather Chucks last hit the pro floor in 1982 when they were sported by Michael Ray Richardson.
Those days may be gone, but Chucks live on. And while they may be 100 years old, they continue to embody youthful spirit, an iconoclastic classic and mainstay of fashion and music.
Below, one step in the evolution of the Chuck Taylor All-Star, with its ankle-protecting rubber patch and high-top lace-up design: