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What Did Converse Look Like 100 Years Ago?

Converse All Stars, the shoe we all know and love, has been around since the early 20th century. The rubber-soled staple shoe has changed many times over in terms of style and construction. Have you ever wondered what Converse looked like in the beginning? Journey with us back to 1908 where it all started in Malden Massachusetts. 


In the beginning

In 1908, Marquis Mills Converse founded the Converse Rubber Shoe Company. Converse started as a rubber brand, but went on to release its first athletic shoe in 1917 called the “Non-Skid”. It was marketed as “The All-American Basket Ball Shoe”. The shoes were designed with what Converse called the nine points of supremacy:
1. Leather ankle patch
2. Real horsehide trimming
3. Double stitching
4. Leather laces
5. Cork insole
6. Fine duck uppers and lining
7. Footform last
8. Big C sole of thick live rubber
9. Reinforced toe and foxing


Converse Factory in Malden, Mass. C. 1920

image from Graduate



In 1920, a few alterations were made to the Non-Skids, and Converse released the first All Stars. Around the same time, basketball player Charles (Chuck) Taylor began working as a salesman/marketer for Converse. Taylor began travelling the country holding basketball workshops for different teams and coaches, promoting Converse All Stars along the way. Around 1922 Converse redesigned the All Stars with more ankle support and flexibility to improve the athlete’s performance. Then in 1923, as a tribute to Taylor and his significant role in promoting the company, Converse added his signature to the leather ankle patch and renamed the shoe Chuck Taylor All Stars

Converse & Basketball 

It may be hard to imagine now, but in the early to mid-20th century, Converse shoes were made and marketed for basketball players. There weren't very many shoes designed for basketball at the time and Converse All Stars quickly became the go-to shoe for ballers all around America. 


image from Graduate


As a form of marketing, Converse began publishing an annual Converse Basketball Yearbook. This featured pictures of different basketball teams Taylor went to visit, all of which would be wearing Converse All Stars. The yearbook also included articles outlining new concepts in basketball and different aspects of Converse basketball shoes and what made them unique. 

images from Sneaker Freaker


Converse also had a sponsored basketball team called the All Stars which started in 1926 and was managed by Chuck Taylor. The team was created to promote Converse shoes and travelled around America competing against other teams while rocking a pair of Chucks. 

image from History of Converse

Popular Styles 

The three main styles of Converse in the early 20th Century were the black monochrome high tops, the all-white high tops with blue and red trim (originally designed for the 1936 Olympic games), and the black leather and rubber shoes. It wasn’t until 1949 that the popular black and white chucks we see today with the black canvas, white toe guard, laces and sole were initially created. Even later than that came the first low top Converse in 1957 which was created after many basketball players cut the top of their high tops to make them more breathable around the ankles.

image from Smithsonian Magazine

Converse Today

Even though Converse All Stars began as basketball shoes, it’s interesting to see how they’ve changed over the years. Now you can see people rocking a pair of Chucks at a wedding, out on the street, or on the runway. They’re still a classic shoe for exercising, specifically weight lifting, but are now much more versatile than they were back in the early 20th century. Fun fact: Baggins owner Glen Lynch wore Converse All Stars as part of his gym uniform in grade school. 



Have an idea for a pair of custom Converse or Vans? Head over to our website to start your own pair of custom shoes from our print shop. We also make custom t-shirts, hoodies, and tote bags!


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