The Converse Rubber Shoe Company is founded by Marquis Mills in Massachusetts, USA, and specialises in a type of rubber footwear called galoshes.
Converse starts to make sneakers using their rubber combined with a fabric upper. The original high tops are produced in a natural brown colour however aren’t initially popular, as the general public at the time didn’t have a need for such a shoe.
Mills decides to change the focus of the company to concentrate on developing athletic footwear, with models primarily being purchased by sports players of the era.
Converse begins selling their high top athletic shoes specifically as basketball footwear, called Non-Skids, with the model closely resembling what we’d recognise today as Converse High Tops.
Converse launches the now iconic All Star basketball shoe. The familiar high top shoe is an evolution of the company’s high top sneakers, and it is marketed as basketball specific footwear.
A semi professional basketball player named Charles “Chuck” Taylor begins working part time as a salesman at Converse.
Taylor suggests improvements to the All Star to create a more supportive and flexible version of the shoe. An update of the shoe featuring Taylor’s suggested enhancements is launched and is renamed the Chuck Taylor All Star.
Taylor becomes player manager of The Converse Allstars basketball team. The team was created and sponsored by Converse to help promote its footwear.
Taylor travels around the US promoting the shoe and is so successful that the company updates the design to feature his name, launching a revised model which includes the now iconic Chuck Taylor All Star logo.
After Taylor and the All Star team had spent a few years travelling around the US, promoting the brand and running basketball clinics to raise participation in the sport, the American Olympic Basketball Team wore Converse All Stars as part of their uniform for the games. All Stars remained the official USA olympic team basketball shoe until 1968.
During the second world war, Converse All Stars are selected by the United States military as the official athletic shoe of the US armed forces used during training. The shoe allows servicemen to have the flexibility to train in a gym environment without having to wear the heavy leather boots that were issued to them for combat.
Converse releases a black version of the All Star which is popular for its sleek look, and becomes the shoe of choice for basketball professionals in the year that the NBA is founded.
Post WW2, the Converse brand continues to grow in popularity based on a reputation for quality and comfort, and by 1957 it accounts for 80% of sales in the basketball footwear sector.
Converse All Stars enter mainstream fashion, being worn by some of the biggest celebrities of the time including James Dean and Elvis Presely.
Converse releases an upgraded version of the All Star. Made from premium materials like leather and with a revised fit, it is designed to keep the brand as a leader in an increasingly competitive market. Sadly, this is also the year that Chuck Taylor passes away from a heart attack.
Converse acquires the Jack Purcell trademark. Still popular today, the Jack Purcell line offers a clean aesthetic with familiar Converse low top silhouette.
After experimenting with a low top silhouette towards the end of the 60s, Converse releases the One Star, a specifically designed low top sneaker featuring increased padding. The model remains on sale for a year before being retired.
Converse launches the Pro Leather basketball sneaker. Featuring a full leather upper, the high top shoe is worn by some of the NBA’s biggest players such as Julius “Dr. J” Erving.
Throughout the 70s, the Converse All Star continues to be increasingly worn as a leisure shoe and is picked up by counter culture fashion along with musicians including Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and later in the decade the Sex Pistols and The Ramones.
Converse releases the Fastbreak, a lightweight basketball sneaker with foam backed nylon and leather upper. The Fastbreak was worn by Michael Jordan, in the last year before his Nike sponsorship, including during the gold medal winning Olympic final.
Michael J Fox wears All Stars while appearing in Back to the Future. In the same year, Nike releases the Air Jordan 1; the signature basketball shoe of Michael Jordan. Initially controversial for breaking NBA rules regarding colours, the shoe helps to cement Nike’s dominance of the basketball footwear category as Converse becomes less popular with athletes.
Mickey Johnson of the New Jersey Nets is the last player to wear All Stars in the NBA in the 85/86 season, which marks the end of the model’s long association with professional basketball. The brand also releases a new basketball shoe called The Weapon.
Converse releases the ERX-400, an ultra high top basketball sneaker that has since been re-released on various occasions, becoming popular as a bold and chunky casual choice.
As the original sporting appeal of the brand had very much been cast aside, Converse had one thing on their side, their unique style which appealed to sub-cultures that preferred an "alt" look and were worn by musicians like grunge’s Kurt Cobain and hip-hop’s Ice Cube. The Converse brand was very much about fashion over practicality, and lack of sports appeal saw overall sales decline throughout the decade.
Despite falling sales, by the end of the millenium Converse has sold more than 600 million pairs of All Stars, making it one of the world’s most popular and recognisable sneakers.
Poor sales and a sports footwear market dominated by competitors with more technologically advanced product lines sees Converse file for bankruptcy.
Formal rival Nike acquires Converse for an estimated $305 million, beginning the resurgence of Converse as a leading brand in the lifestyle footwear market.
Will Smith’s character in the movie I, Robot wears a pair of box fresh All Stars. Set in 2035, the shoes are described as “vintage 2004” by Smith’s character.
Converse collaborates with Gap on a special edition sneaker for the (PRODUCT) RED charity campaign that focused on the AIDS crisis in Africa.
The "Connectivity" campaign is launched by the brand to promote the concept of individuality. Ads feature alternative celebrities like Greenday singer Billy Joe Armstrong and Sex Pistols frontman Sid Vicious.
Converse collaborates with French label Comme des Garçons to release a special edition model, the Comme des Garcons Play x Converse Chuck Taylor, sparking a long-running partnership between the brands. The CONS line also launches into the skate market, which spawns a pro team of ambassadors and shoe range designed for skateboarding.
Converse team up with Blondie front woman Debbie Harry to create a range of rock 'n' roll-themed shoes for the female market. In the same year a collaboration with world-renowned artist Damien Hirst sees an exclusive butterfly themed All Star launched for (PRODUCT) RED.
The Converse x Super Mario Bros. Chuck Taylor Hi collection drops to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the game. Featuring imagery from the Nintendo classic, the range is only available to buy in Japan.
Converse drops a Jordan x Converse commemorative pack to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Michael Jordan’s famous game-winning shot for North Carolina in 1982. Limited to just 30, the pack includes reissues of Jordan’s shoes from the game and signed jersey.
Ten years after acquiring Converse, Nike's success was reported in the form of the revenue figures that spanned the decade. They had grown Converse from bankruptcy to a $1.4 billion brand, successfully repositioning it as a leading heritage lifestyle choice.
Converse CONS launches the Malden Racer, a retro running inspired sneaker in suede, while Converse Japan puts out a Tegami pack which features styling details inspired by vintage string closure systems for documents.
Converse launches the Chuck Taylor II, an updated version of the classic shoe. Featuring improvements provided by Nike such as a lunarlon insole, the model is well received by the fashion press, however it is discontinued after a year on sale.
Following previous collabs, Converse teams up again with Italian brand Missoni on The Flame collection which features metallic threads woven into the fabric of All Stars in an exclusive zig zag pattern. Converse also releases a reflective camo pack, a woven suede pack and a special edition Andy Warhol collection featuring prints of the artist’s work.
Converse brings back the Fastbreak from its archives for an authentic 80s look. Meanwhile, New York based KITH collaborates with Converse on Coca Cola edition Chuck Taylor high tops, emblazoned with the drink giant’s logo. Multiple special editions release including a version of the One Star designed by Tyler, the Creator.
Converse teams up with Hong Kong label MADNESS to release a black suede One Star and collaborates with rapper Vince Staples on a special Chuck Taylor model. The brand also drops a ‘70s Vintage collection which features Chucks in authentic 1970s colourways.
Converse collaborates with Carhartt WIP to release multiple collabs throughout the year including military inspired Chuck ‘70s, an orange camo model featuring a ripstop nylon upper, Milner wool Chuck 70s and the Goretex Pack featuring waterproof All Stars.
Converse celebrates black history month by releasing special editions of the Chuck Taylor and Pro Leather. The brand also teams up with Moncler and streetwear icon Hiroshi Fujiwara on exclusive All Star Low editions.