There are two things that everyone knows about Chuck Taylors: A.) That they are coolest retro shoes you can ever have if you don’t wear them out in a few years, and B.) They kill a homies feet as they are the most flat-footed uncomfortable shoe wear since the biblical times and wooden sole.
Chucks have been a pop-culture phenomenon for decades, worn by rock stars, hip hop artists, celebrities, anyone that has ever been ‘cool’ has had a pair of Chucks, even the great JFK. So with great consumer fan-fare or sneaker purest contempt (whatever side you want) the inevitable is almost here. In just one day Converse plans to officially unveil the newer looking, much cozier and pricier – ‘Chuck II’ to the world.
The technology is imported for the first time from corporate parent Nike. Lunarlon, a lightweight, bouncy foam used in Nike’s running and basketball shoes, will now be found in Chuck’s rubber sole.
Jim Calhoun, the 48-year-old chief executive of Converse, knows exactly what people say when they gripe about his shoes: “I love them, I just wish I could wear them for more than a couple of hours.” Calhoun believes their sneakers needed to feel good to remain relevant. “Kids are growing up in a world where they know comfort, expect comfort, and won’t stand for discomfort,” Calhoun took the helm at Converse a decade after the shoe maker filed for bankruptcy, following stints running major divisions at Levi Strauss and Walt Disney as well as a stretch at Nike in the late 1990s as a director of basketball apparel.
No shoe company has ever been as non-willing as Converse has been to change. It only took them 98 years to finally make the drastic update. The company model has been to stay true to classic style and looking past any kind of comfort issues, also continuing making basketball shoes with very little success things had to change. While some old-time shoe lovers say “why fix something that isn’t broke?” the truth of the matter is that Chuck Taylors were an enormously outdated product with no real upside other than a name and look. The original-style Chucks have always been one of the best-selling shoes of all time, with more than one billion pairs sold, and still account for a majority of Converse’s revenue. The purist love the shoe as it has always been and do not want to see it change. Calhoun says he gets letters imploring him not to screw it up or “put a swoosh on it” (Which he explores will never happen).
“We’ve never sold more Chuck Taylors, and the company has never been as big or profitable as it is today without changing the product. One of the curses of having an icon is a fear—particularly in the midst of success—of doing any changes.” – says Calhoun.
Adding Nike tech will make Chucks more comfortable and conform to a footwear trend that has even seeped into dress shoes. Converse is also betting it will be able to charge more for an enhanced sneaker. The Chuck II, will sell for $15 more than the original. The price of high-tops will now be $75; revamped low-tops will sell for $70.
Super Soft Micro-Suede Lining – Perforated for maximized comfort
Lunarlon Sockliner – For more cushioning and arch support
Padded Non-Slip Tongue – For 360 degree comfort around the ankle and instep
Premium Canvas – For high quality touch and texture
Chuck II hits stores on July 28. the revamped shoes will be sold alongside the original Chuck Taylors.
“I believe when people know that they can get a Chuck Taylor that’s super comfortable, they’ll run to the Chuck II,” Calhoun says. “Then we’ll figure out what the opportunity is for the original Chuck.”
Nike purchased Converse from a private equity firm for about $300 million in 2003, when Calhoun showed up the retro shoes had already made a comeback and surpassed $1 billion in sales. But executives had no way to explain the sudden revival. This was a major change Calhoun was very aware of making since no real future business model was set up at Converse. Converse is on quite a run now. Sales rose 21 percent in the fiscal year that ended in May, surpassing Nike’s overall growth rate of 14 percent, and hit $2 billion for the first time. Calhoun, who took the CEO job four years ago, decided that keeping up that pace meant embracing footwear innovation in earnest.
The forerunner to the Chuck Taylor debuted in 1917 as innovative footwear for the emerging sport of basketball. By the 1940s, almost every NBA player wore them. Converse was on the nations pop culture radar for decades, helped by endorsements from superstars like Julius Erving and Magic Johnson. Not until a new company (Nike) and the world best modern day basketball player ever (Michael Jordan) would combine forces to own the NBA basketball market.
The pop culture-generational, retro appeal of Converse Chucks will never go away. The old retro uncomfortable shoes will still be there to buy if that’s what you want. The new limited Chuck II’s are already becoming a nationwide sellout before the official on-line release. If you want to get on the hype wagon of Chuck II’s, be sure to have your refresh buttons ready tomorrow!!