Flip Side: Converse Shoes

Sally Kidson 

Since their creation in 1923, 750 million pairs of Converse All Stars have been sold at a rate of 30,000 pairs per day. Much like owning a mobile, an iPod or anything in Burberry print, these shoes have become a must-have item for any self-respecting sheep in society. They’ve had a good run, but perhaps it is time to acknowledge that, as with Burberry, over-saturation of the market has devalued the product. A quick visit to urban dictionary, modern society’s grapevine, will tell you that converse are "shoes that used to be an expression of individuality, but are now an overused fad".

Usually such a damning definition would be the kiss of death, but ironically, despite now being a shoe of choice for sloanes, valley girls, and I fear even Britney Spears, Converse have managed to keep a semblance of their integrity due to the fact that they are the uniform de rigeur of the ‘emo’ kids. Unlike Burberry, which unfortunately for the brand, became a favorite of chavs and Colleen McLoughlin, generally one of the most derided and despised sections of British society, Converse are still worn by the cool kids. Admittedly, by the slightly scummy, I-need-a-haircut, unkempt looking ones, but this only lends them a slightly dangerous and subversive edge. So, despite being worn by the masses, they’re still pretentious.

Of course, Converse are even more beloved by the fashion crowd because they can be considered ethical, which is very ‘in’ right now. Made of canvas and rubber you don’t have to kill a cow to fit in with everyone. How jolly! Unfortunately, since 2003 the brand has been owned by Nike, which has outsourced their production to the heart of Asia (and we all know what that means) and hiked up the price. Never fear: so popular are these shoes that a looky-likey, ethically produced alternative has been created under the brand ‘no-sweat’. Of course, these aren’t half as popular as they lack the All Star logo and stamp of authenticity. Fashion is a fickle friend.Then again, it’s not all about fashion. Converse are practical and comfortable. Sure, they’re miserable to wear in the rain, and they begin to squeak, and they make you look like you have clown feet, but it’s always the practicality factor which comes first. Of course, this is why ballet pumps are so popular. At the end of the day I’ll happily admit that converse are a design classic, but surely by now the novelty’s worn off.

Related  Oxford tuition fees set to soar above £7000

Milly West

Much as our generation might like to claim Converse shoes as its own discovery, All Stars have been around since 1917, with a lengthy and quirky history behind them. Sports stars have been wearing Converse shoes since they were invented, making them the best selling athletic shoe in human history.

Converse products were even used during World War II, when the company produced parkas and protective footwear for American soldiers on the front line. The Converse empire is far more than a fleeting success story. It’s a veritable institution, firmly entrenched in American culture and history.

Converse shoes are far more than a brand name. They have been a formidable presence within several different music genres, including the punk, indie and emo movements. There is even a Converse music festival, a yearly event which gives amateur bands the chance to jump-start their careers by performing at mainstream rock festivals.

The beauty of the Converse All Star lies in the sheer variety of styles available. This is not a static trend, unlike the painfully clichéd "tea towel" scarf or the age-old Pashmina, which leave little room for individuality.

Converse do, quite literally, come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from the conventional lo-top classic to the bolder hi-top shoe, or even the outrageous extra-hi boot-like models. And then of course there’s the pattern itself. Some of the most outrageous designs feature rotund beige elephants, yellow Batman logos and even plastic bacon-and-egg insignias for the more outgoing fan.

Consequently, the chances of bumping into someone with exactly the same style of Converse are refreshingly slight. For one brand of shoe to remain unwaveringly popular for over ninety years, the designers must be doing something right. Whether it’s how blissfully comfortable they are to wear, or how seamlessly they seem to blend in with the most bizarre of outfits, the Converse formula is nothing short of unbeatable.