Walking in Men’s Sneakers: 100 Years of Converse All Stars

100 years of Converse All Stars

Chuck Taylors: Leading the way in gender expression for a century

August 15, 2016: Increasing numbers of men are interested in sneakers made in collaboration with female athletes and celebrities. The development is in contrast to how athletes have influenced men’s sneaker fashion historically.

The news is the result of a recent exclusive interview between Elizabeth Semmelhack and Couponbox.com, a rapidly growing US coupon portal. Semmelhack is Senior Curator at the BATA Shoe Museum in Toronto and author of Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture.

The impetus for the interview was the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Converse All Star. In celebration of it, Couponbox.com investigated how and when All Stars, aka Chuck Taylors, went from being a men’s basketball shoe to being a women’s fashion statement.

Female Athletes Influence Men’s Fashion

Semmelhack stated that the first sneaker made for a female athlete was a big hit with men, but that the manufacturer was not interested in coming out with a male version. The sneaker in question was the Nike Air Swoopes, made in 1996 for WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes.

Oppositely in 2015, male consumers wanted Rihanna’s PUMA Creeper so much that the company came out with a male version, Semmelhack said. PUMA hired Rihanna as Women’s Creative Director in 2014.

Hipster Fashion of the 1990s and Today

Semmelhack also stated that it is nearly impossible to define exactly how and when Chucks made the transition from basketball sneaker to fashion icon.

In spite of that, she said that it was likely during the late 1990s and early 2000s that the All Star truly gained its star-studded status. She said that this was because it became part of “hipster fashion,” which attracts both men and women.

According to Semmelhack, the problem with defining when this transformation took place is knowing at which point people adopted the All Star to express a personal sense of self.

Roots in the 1950s

Nonetheless, it seems that the All Star’s transformation from basketball shoe to fashion staple may be rooted in the 1950s and 60s. According to Couponbox.com research, the earliest appearance of someone wearing the All Star on television as non-athletic footwear was in the program Lassie in 1954.

The first male celebrity to be seen wearing All Stars in film was Anthony Perkins in Tall Story (1960), a romantic comedy about college basketball.

The earliest appearance of a female star wearing the iconic sneaker was in the CBS television program “Shower of Stars” where Shirley MacLaine wore them while dancing on a piano in 1956.

Not surprisingly, it was during the 1950s that Converse introduced the low-top “Oxford” All Star, essentially changing the high-top sneaker from a men’s basketball shoe to unisex fashion accessory.

Borrowing from the Boyfriend’s Closet

Couponbox.com asked Semmelhack how she believes the All Star crossed the gender barrier. In response, she offered the following comment: “Essentially, the All Star was of interest specifically because it was a men’s shoe,” she said.

“For centuries, women have borrowed from their boyfriend’s closet, so to speak. Today, the All Star is connected to ideas about authenticity, and historically, men’s fashion in general has been connected to this as well. Women adopt menswear to access it.”

A Beacon of Tradition

In the century since its release in 1917, the design of the All Star has changed very little. For Semmelhack, this is a part of its essence.

“I think that the cultural value of the All Star is that it is perceived as not changing,” she said. “Fashion is defined by constant change, and many sneakers are at the forefront of that change because of technological innovation or evolving styles.”

“However, the All Star stands as a kind of beacon of tradition and is therefore linked to ideas of nostalgia and authenticity.”

Women in Converse Infographic

In honor of All Star’s importance in women’s fashion, Couponbox.com created the world’s first infographic on the subject. The graphic is a visual history of iconic celebrity women wearing Converse from the 1950s to today.

View the infographic below and read the full interview with Elizabeth Semmelhack here.

A history of the iconic sneaker in women's fashion

To embed the infographic above on your website simply copy and paste the code below:

<p><img src="https://www.couponbox.com/press/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Women-in-Converse.jpg" title="Walking in Men’s Sneakers: 100 Years of Converse All Stars" /></p><p><a href="https://www.couponbox.com/press/converse-all-stars-100-years-walking-in-mens-sneakers/">Walking in Men’s Sneakers: 100 Years of Converse All Stars</a></p>

Steve Cuffari

Steve is a writer, researcher and avid traveler from NYC. His favorite products to save money on are travel, food and beverage and tech gear. If you have any questions or suggestions, just email him: steve@stevencuffari.com.