Chuck Taylors Are Magnetic North For Ivy

That’s a great drawing of Chuck Taylors, right? So classic, in fact, that there is even a video that will teach you how to draw them.

So The Amazing Tom sent me an article from the Wall Street Journal (it is pay walled) about alternatives to Chuck Taylors. It is written by Nathan Taylor Pemberton (who is clearly talented) and it provides options to the classic Taylors. And the options are pretty good, pretty viable. My only comment is that both Mr. Pemberton and some of the people he features in the article, and again it is a good article, say they feel the sneaker is “too young.” Other than that, it is sound and well written.

As an aside, there is a great history of the canvas shoe right here on Ivy-Style.

Before Clyde or Jordan, there was Chuck Taylor. The Converse All Star had already been in use as a basketball shoe beginning in 1917, but it wasn’t until 1927 when Chuck Taylor, who played ball for the Akron Firestones, joined Converse and created an innovative sales program with some design modifications, that the newly named Converse Chuck Taylors became the standard.

By the way, if you are going to enter into the debate about whether Chuck Taylors are Ivy, you should know that the low top Chuck Taylors were introduced in 1957 and were called The Oxford. Not an Ivy League school of course, but Ivy-adjacent?

Converse then accomplished what I think is the next step for Ivy – a step that has started by the way. Converse gets bought by Nike, and the marketing begins. Next thing you know, a First Lady is wearing…

… the same sneaker as this young man.

Chuck Taylors have defied demographic, remained relevant for over a century, and are resurging. Good path for Ivy.

Stay tuned.


17 Comments on "Chuck Taylors Are Magnetic North For Ivy"

  1. the passenger | June 6, 2023 at 9:55 am |

    The big problem with All-Stars (that isn’t often mentioned) is that they are horribly uncomfortable. I would argue that the Jack Purcell is a more Ivy-relevant offering from Converse.

    • The base model All-Stars are, indeed, uncomfortable. And narrow! The upgraded model (which is really just the shoe as it was sold before the Nike buyout) is the Chuck Taylor ’70, which is the only one I’d consider. I’ve had a few pairs since they started offering the model and find them quite comfortable, even for my flat/wide feet.
      That said, the Purcell is a great shoe — can’t go wrong there.

  2. Charlottesville | June 6, 2023 at 10:58 am |

    Converse All-Stars are certainly an American classic, but the Ivy sneaker for me is the Sperry deck shoe. Comfortable, affordable and simply styled, the white canvas Sperry is a real classic.

  3. James H. Grant | June 6, 2023 at 11:38 am |

    In 1960-61, the Boston Celtics were the best team in the NBA. They had Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman, Bill Russell, Jim Loscutoff, Sam Jones, K.C. Jones, and Tommy Heinsohn. As far as I know, they were the only team to wear black Converse All-Stars. A couple of my high school teammates and I got together and asked our coach if we could wear black low-cut Chucks, just like the Celtics. And since Coach was a Celtics fan, he said OK. We still practiced in our high-top white Chucks but wore the black low-cuts in the games. It was actually better because we had our ankles wrapped and taped before each game. My low-cut black Converse Chucks cost $9.95. Our high-top white Converse practice shoes were only $8.95. That just didn’t make any sense to me. Still doesn’t.

  4. Tom Conroy | June 6, 2023 at 12:03 pm |

    I have a book that features photographs of JFK and Jackie in their first home in Georgetown. JFK definitely be styling the Chuck Taylor’s in one of the photos.

  5. Frederick J Johnson | June 6, 2023 at 3:50 pm |

    I agree that “Jacks” are more Ivy having word both. I still have a new in the box pair of Jacks that i have been saving for my “old age”; I am now 74.

  6. I agree with the comment about the Jack Purcell being a better shoe, not only in comfort but also in appearance. It’s cleaner without the logo branding. Sperrys are probably my number one pick though. Simple, classic.

    The idea that Converse All Stars are maybe best worn by younger people is something I happen to agree with. They “shout” a bit more than the plainer designs. I’ve always associated them with youth culture at least. I think it’s worth noting that even when they are being worn by an adult in this post, its Michelle Obama playing with children. I assume she wanted to make them think she was “one of them” in a way? Chucks send that message.

    But in any event I think they are are a timeless shoe that is worthy of respect even if other canvas shoes are more “Ivy”

  7. whiskeydent | June 6, 2023 at 6:08 pm |

    I too thought Jack Purcells were the Ivy sneaker. That was certainly the case on the tennis court in the 70’s, with the Adidas Stan Smith coming in second. Also keep in mind that Converse makes Purcells as well as well as the Chucks.

  8. If the same shoe works for both JFK and The Ramones, it’s doing something right. After a century in use, the ubiquity of the Chuck Taylor is well-earned. At present, the ’70 model is probably the only one worth considering (I quite like mine), as the lower-cost offering wears out much more quickly and is, for me anyway, not very comfortable.

  9. Michael Powell | June 7, 2023 at 1:09 am |

    We called them “gym shoes” in the 50s, when we went to the gym twice a week and ran around or played dodge ball or kick-baseball for 45 minutes. The guys who played basketball, called them basketball shoes. The last pair I had was in ’73.
    I didn’t know that “Ivy” was a thing back in the day; but from the time I was 12 years old, I have always worn blue button-down shirts. Maybe I was “Ivy” all along, and just didn’t know it.

  10. Poison Ivy Leaguer | June 7, 2023 at 9:02 am |

    Circa 1990 I was chatting with the analyst who covered consumer goods and apparel at the bank where I worked. She wanted to recommend Nike stock, but it wasn’t in her assigned industries. She thought that it was ridiculous that it was in the tire and rubber category, so I gave her a brief history lesson. When I was a kid in the ’50’s, US Keds were made by US Rubber, PF Flyers and Jack Purcells were made by BF Goodrich and Converse All Stars were made by The Converse Tire and Rubber Company. I don’t know who made Sperry or the also rans Like Red Ball Jets and Bata Bullets.

  11. Hardbopper | June 7, 2023 at 5:34 pm |

    I’ve considered getting a pair only for the gym, not for running. I’m in the low-cut, oxford camp. A little branding doesn’t rub me wrong under those circumstances.

  12. Scott Rye | June 7, 2023 at 5:37 pm |

    I remember well the way my mother dressed me for Kindergarten: Madras button-downs, chinos and penny loafers, but by the time I started first grade, I was wearing Chuck Taylors. Fast forward to college, and after wearing Clark’s Wallabees for four years, I gravitated back to Chuck Taylor high tops. Haven’t worn them since my early 20s, but I long for a pair every once in a while and think a pair of red high tops might go nicely with a blue seersucker suit!

  13. MacMcConnell | June 8, 2023 at 2:14 am |

    Every child in America owned some variant of the “Chuck Taylor”, regardless of who manufactured it. It was called a gym shoe. From share cropers’ sons to bank presidents’ sons owned them. So how is that Ivy? I own Chuck Taylors, I cut my lawn wearing them.

    I’m not sure there is an Ivy “tennis” shoe. If there was it would be the US Keds, Van or Sperry. Which are all basically the same shoe. I wore the Keds version during the 1960s when not in gym or the tennis court. My preference on the court was Jack Percells and then the original Stan Smiths. Jacks and Smiths are what I wear on casual ocassions now.

    Don’t get me started on Belgian loafers or Tretorns on men. Really though, wear what you like, find your own Ivy style.

    As a reference, I was born in 1951.

  14. I have never been a fan of the Chuck’s but I love me some Stan Smith’s. I wore my last pair out and about for about 10 years and they are on year three of my ‘yardwork’ shoes.

  15. John Byrne | June 11, 2023 at 7:08 pm |

    SeaVees makes a nice, simple canvas sneaker as well.

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