Chuck Taylor High Tops: The History Behind the Iconic Sneaker

We've got the ultimate story behind the iconic Chuck Taylor high tops. Find out how they got started and why they're still so popular today.

Keyword(s): chuck taylor high tops


Did you know that Chuck Taylor high tops were the first signature sneaker in history?

They are also one of the longest-running sneaker designs and have maintained their popularity for almost one hundred years. However, the story of Chuck Taylor shoes isn't without a few twists and turns. Chuck Taylor high tops have an interesting and unexpected history behind them. 

If you fancy yourself a sneaker addict and have yet to learn about the iconic history of converse sneakers, there is a gap in your sneaker knowledge. 

Get clued up and keep reading to find out the backstory behind the iconic Chuck Taylor All Star high top sneaker. 

The Origins Of Converse

Founded in 1908 by Marquis Mills Converse, the Converse brand originally started out as the Converse Rubber Company. As the name suggests, in its beginning years Converse made various rubber products. 

One of the main product lines was "galoshes", a waterproof type of overshoe. The company also made duck-hunting shoes, car tires, and tennis shoes. 

The Debut of Converse High Tops

In the beginning, Converse's assembly line staff only made rubber products during fall, winter, and spring. The founder, Mr. Converse, wanted to keep his staff on to work through the summer as well. 

To give the assembly staff something to do during the summer months, Converse decided to try out a basketball shoe line in addition to its tennis shoes. 

You could say that the debut of the first Converse high tops started out more as a solution to an HR issue than a footwear innovation.

However, this decision turned out to be a fortuitous one. Basketball was just starting to take off in Massachusetts in a big way. As it happens, basketball was actually invented not more than 100 miles from Converse's headquarters. After its inception in 1891 by college sports coach James Naismith, basketball started to gain traction not only in Massachusetts but across the East Coast. 

James Naismith reportedly invented basketball as a way to keep his teams fit during winter when the sports fields were unfit for play. Because basketball didn't need a big grassy sports field and could be played in more confined spaces, it started to catch on like wildfire.

Converse made a couple of forays into the basketball shoe market, and before long the company landed on the All Star. The All Star wasn't the first basketball shoe on the market, that honor goes to Colchester Rubber Co, a firm that shut down in 1893. 

However, the All Start did boast a selection of features that gave it an edge over the competition. These included a heel patch for added ankle support, and, most importantly, the diamond tread pattern. This tread pattern allowed wearers to push off from any direction and swiftly come to a stop. 

Chuck Taylor’s Role in Converse History

So what about Chuck Taylor? Who was he and why was he so important that his name is now memorialized on all Chuck Taylor shoes?

Converse hired Charles "Chuck Taylor in 1922 as a coach and salesman. This might sound like an odd mixture of job titles, but back in the early days of basketball, a lot of rubber and shoe companies had their own teams. 

These teams would travel around the country and promote the brand's products. 

However, the Converse team did more than this. As well as playing games, they would also host clinics for basketball coaches. This was a brilliant brand-building move.

After the clinics, they would encourage the coaches to order Converse sneakers for their teams. 

Not only was the Converse team triggering new sales, but they were also seeding basketball across the country, thereby expanding their market base. 

By the 1930s, Chuck Taylor's name was widely known in basketball circles. Even though he wasn't a star-level player, Chuck Taylor was synonymous with the sport. 

Shortly into the 30s, the Depression began and Converse had to think of ways to bolster plummeting sales and make their products stand out. This is when Converse decided to leverage Chuck Taylor's name. By 1934, Chuck Taylor high tops debuted, emblazoned with the signature words "Chuck Taylor" on the heel patch.

Want to get your hands on a pair of throwback Chuck Taylors that sport the original vintage look with a few modern twists? If yes, we'd recommend you check out the Chuck Taylor All Star 1970 release. 

The Changing Demand for Chuck Taylors

Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers reigned supreme in both basketball and general athletic circles for a number of decades. Not only did the US team wear Chuck Taylors in the first-ever Olympic basketball game—but they also became staple athletic footwear for US military trainees. 

However, by the end of the 1950s, Chuck Taylor shoes started to lose traction in the athletic market. As sports shoe competitors started to bring out more "high-tech" sportswear features, Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers started to look a little basic in comparison.

However, although Chuck Taylors weren't as in demand on the court anymore, the iconic shoe had already attracted attention from the non-athletic sector. A few years previously Converse trimmed down the classic Chuck Taylor All Star high top design and released the first low-top silhouettes. 

With this, Converse organically transitioned from a purely athletic shoe into a lifestyle shoe. In a short span of time, Chuck Taylors became a go-to shoe for surfers, skateboarders, and musicians, carving out a dedicated following in counter-culture. 

Thanks to this, Chuck Taylor high tops now have an edgy flavor to them, and celebrities and style icons from all walks of life consider them a closet staple. 

Interestingly, Converse didn't do anything to promote this pivot. In fact, right up to 2012 Converse was still positioning Chuck Taylors as a basketball shoe.

Since then, however, the brand has embraced its sub-culture following and its role in the music scene. 

Looking For Pair a of Chuck Taylor High Tops? We Have Have You Covered

Chuck Taylor high tops have a fascinating past and played a central role in the history of both basketball and sneaker culture. After almost a century, Chuck Taylor high tops are just as popular as ever, just in a different way. 

How many sneaker styles can say they've been hot for a hundred years?

Starting off as the must-have shoe for sports performance, Chuck Taylors have now become the it-shoe for adding a little edginess to your wardrobe and can instantly inject personality into any fit. 

Looking for a pair of Chuck Taylors for yourself? Browse our collection of Chuck Taylor high tops today. 

refer a frind cross

Invite your friends and family to the crew and earn with the KICKS CREW referral program!

  • 1

    Share your referral code or link with your friends.

  • 2Your friends will receive a US$10 coupon code when they sign up with your referral.
  • 3You will receive a US$10 coupon once your referral has completed their first purchase.