Think of Converse sneakers today and few people would say that it was a shoe designed for men – it’s a unisex item that you’ll find in the wardrobes of men and women of all ages and from all walks of life.

Originally produced as the Converse All-Star basketball shoe by the Converse Rubber Shoe Company in Massachusetts in 1917, the sneaker really took off when a basketball player named Chuck Taylor started promoting it. Employed by Converse as a salesman and ambassador, Taylor promoted the shoes around the United States, encouraging those who took part in his basketball clinics to wear the Converse sneakers. The shoes became so intrinsically linked to Taylor that his signature was added to the All-Star patch on the high-topped sneaker in 1932, which led to them being called ‘Chucks’.

Today Converse are still a hit: they go with anything and can be dressed up or down. But they are also viewed as a vintage classic, and one that both sexes have embraced over the years. To see the role the iconic sneaker has played in women’s fashion, take a look at the timeline produced by Couponbox, which plots the shoe’s uptake by various iconic female celebrities throughout the last century and into the millennium.

So how did the sneaker make its way from the basketball court into women’s fashion? There’s no doubt that the All Stars’ enduring popularity stems from the many celebrities who have worn them.

  • The first time they were featured on female feet on TV was back in the Fifties when Shirley Maclaine wore them as she danced on top a piano for the CBS program Shower of Stars in 1956.
  • British model Twiggy raised the Converse profile in the UK when she wore them in the Sixties, and during the Seventies, they evolved into part of the punk rock uniform with bands like The Runaways wearing them.
  • Brat Packer Demi Moore sported them in the Eighties, no doubt boosting their association with being slightly rebellious, and in the Nineties, grunge queen Winona Ryder was also an All Stars’ fan.
  • In the 2010s, Chucks have been many an actress’s footwear of choice, with big names such as Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore  and Kristen Stewart wearing them. Kristen Stewart even turned up in a pair on the red carpet.
  • And today you’ll still see any number of famous women wearing their Chucks. Michelle Obama is a fan and has worn several pairs on different occasions.

To mark the upcoming 100th anniversary of the All Stars, Couponbox also interviewed Elizabeth Semmelhack, Senior Curator of the BATA Shoe Museum, about Chucks’ vintage status and their role in women’s fashion.

Semmelhack sees a large part of the appeal of the Converse in being that its style has remained the same over the years, aside from a few nuances here and there with different editions. Because of the technology behind sneaker design, most sneaker brands are constantly evolving and changing. But Semmelhack points out that “the All Star stands as a kind of beacon of tradition and is therefore linked to ideas of nostalgia and authenticity.”

This is why you’ll find there’s a thriving market for vintage All Stars while at the same time the newly manufactured versions of the shoe fly off the retail stores’ shelves.

With the All Stars’ centenary coming up soon, there is no doubt that this iconic sneaker has a future that’s likely to match the length of the history behind it.

Image credits
featured image: “white converse dainty 2” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Idhren
grey converse: “Converse One Star Vintage” (CC BY 2.0) by Menswear Market