25 Classic Kicks

FN counts off the sneaker styles that defined the times, made reputations and empowered generations of fans.

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Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star

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Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star

The sneaker first marketed as the All-Star has lived up to its name: Some say the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star is the best-selling, most successful shoe in history — so much so, in fact, that the style usually just goes by “Chucks” and is still instantly recognizable. The vulcanized canvas style first appeared in 1917, when Converse created a shoe for the still-emerging basketball market. Available in both high- and low-top versions, the simple silhouette was worn by then-high school player (and eventual pro) Charles Taylor. In 1921, Taylor, in need of a job, approached Converse’s Chicago offices and asked for a sales gig. He also gave the company some priceless pointers: make the shoe more flexible and add a patch for ankle support, he suggested. With Taylor’s changes (and his signature on the patch alongside the star Converse is now known for) the shoe struck a new spark — one that Taylor, a tireless salesman and promoter, fanned into a steady business. By 1966 (shortly before Taylor’s death), Converse controlled the majority of the sneaker market, but hard times and changing fashions led Converse to a bankruptcy filing in 2001. Athletic juggernaut Nike stepped in and bought the brand in 2003, leading the company to a rebound, and today, the unisex Chuck Taylor style is available in every color of the rainbow, in every imaginable fabric and in every size. And its famous fans include designer John Varvatos, whose allegiance to the classic black version led him to a deal with Converse and a line of shoes, many of which take their inspiration from the All-Star.

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