1979-1986: The Empire vs The Usurpers
Up until 1979 Converse was unstoppable. They crushed their long time rivals Pro Keds and PF Flyers. They dominated the American athletic market. Many top athletes are endorsed by Converse. Such as Magic Johnson. If their deal with BF Goodrich had not been halted then there was fear that Converse would become a monopoly. But by this time Adidas, Reebok, and Nike had come to challenge Converse. Following the 1970s Recession many American businesses went overseas. And products manufactured overseas, are of course much more affordable. Adidas, Reebok, and Nike all took part in this new wave of business strategy, which made their products more desirable. Likewise they pushed athletics to the next level with the inclusion of new designs and technology into their footwear. Their marketing strategies were something Converse was vastly unfamiliar with. Adidas pushed hard into Converse’s Basketball division. While Nike quietly overtook Converse’s tennis footwear with their own court shoe.
Chuck Taylor All Star shoes of the early 1980s still had the extra stitching, but begin to look more like modern day Chuck Taylors. The air vents are closer together and the midsole is lowered, later the extra stitching is removed. Chuck Taylors of the late 80s and up to 2001 look the same. Although the boxes they came in changed decade to decade, and likewise the sole was slightly modified. Converse in the early 80s still came with the red box, but later are changed to a silver box.
Under Allied Corp, Converse was not fully prepared to battle these newcomers. Nonetheless things did not end so suddenly. To better compete Converse began making some of its footwear overseas as well, but the Chuck Taylor All Star remained in America. By the mid 1980s Converse had rearranged its operations and become fully dedicated to athletic footwear. This helped Converse retake its dominance in Tennis in 1983. They also started a biomechanical footwear lab, so they could engineer better shoes. Converse stock becomes available for purchase.
In 1984 Converse became the Official shoe of the Olympics, which helped reestablish their relevance. The US Olympic Basketball team takes home the gold, winning using Converse shoes. This same year Converse signs a contract with Moon-Star Chemical Corp, Mizuno Corp, and Zett Corp to make and distribute Converse products in Japan. This leads to the birth of Converse Japan.
In 1986 Converse releases its last major shoe for the decade, the Weapon. With it they unleashed the Choose Your Weapon Campaign. The shoe becomes a major hit for Converse. However by this time Nike had already signed Michael Jordan, and with it Converse’s fate is all but assured. Allied losing faith in Converse decides to sell them off to Interco Inc.
1986-2001: End of an Era, Start of a Struggle
By the end of the 80s Converse lost its lead in athletic footwear. Nike and Adidas begin to take control of the athletic footwear market. Despite this Converse tries to reclaim their throne.
In 1987 Converse releases the All Star Classic. Reproductions of All Stars from 1917 with updated branding.
Throughout the 1990s Converse’s presence remains. Still loved by America, but seen more as a lifestyle shoe more than anything else. Through Converse’s biomechanics lab, shoes using helium are produced.
In 1992 Converse introduces shoes using the REACT system. Which introduced the use of helium in Converse’s shoes. Helium is a much lighter gas, and as such would outlast Nike’s own air sole shoes. As gas from Nike shoes could continue to expand over time and eventually render their shoes useless. Despite this Converse gains little recognition.
The Chuck Taylor All Star of the 90s is closer to the modern day All Star in terms of design. The extra stitching has been removed. However Converse experiments with different materials. Making All Stars out of hemp, vinyl, leather, etc. Also the boxes are no longer sporty looking.
In 1996 Converse attempts to regain an edge by releasing the Chuck Taylor All Star 2000. The Classic Chuck Taylor gets updated with an all leather build and helium technology. However once again Converse fails to make waves.
In 1997 Converse releases another reproduction of the Chuck Taylor All Star. Based on the All Star of 1917 with the modern Chuck Taylor branding of the 90s.
In 1999 Converse’s last major attempt to reclaim some sort of their greatness, occurs with their creation of the Converse HE: 01. A shoe built using advanced helium technology and revolutionary designing. Each shoe is composed of two separate parts, which are worn together. However by this time Converse is in the red and is making little to no profit.
In 2001 Converse files for bankruptcy. From this point on Converse will longer make their shoes in the USA, especially the Chuck Taylor All Star. Converse begins to make their shoes in China. However the shoe’s design and quality is not changed in any large way. Under new direction Converse begins to rely more on its heritage, and stops trying to succeed in the Athletic shoe market.
Chuck Taylor All Star circa late 90s-2001. Some of the last original pairs of the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star. Once again the box is updated, however its important to note that the American Made Chuck Taylors have a different sole and different heel construction compared to todays All Stars.
2003-present: The Death of Converse
In great twist of irony Converse is bought our by the #1 shoe brand in America, Nike. Before Nike were seen as nobodies. Now Converse was the nobody. Under Nike’s control the quality of Converse’s products goes down drastically, giving us the modern Chuck Taylor most people know today. Nike needed Converse in order to capture a new audience, as the Swoosh is in part a liability, and for the most part Nike has succeed. Converse’s spirit is all, but gone. In 2006 Nike releases the Converse All Star Revolution. Nike’s own novel attempt at bringing Converse back to Pro Basketball. Again the attempt falters, and Nike soon gives up.
Converse was once held in high regard for the quality of their products. Today they are simply loved for their novelty and nostalgia.