More than a century ago, a small Massachusetts company released a shoe that would forever change the game of basketball – and leave an indelible mark on popular culture. That shoe was the All-Star and that company was Converse. However, in recent years, the shoe’s visibility in professional basketball has vanished, as Converse is no longer worn on the court – but not for much longer.
Almost two years ago, executives of Nike Inc., the parent company of Converse, decided to begin work on developing a new Converse basketball shoe and tap into a very lucrative market. Now, set to be released in the middle of next month, the new Converse All-Star Pro BB will feature a similar look to past efforts, while offering a little more comfort – an evolution for a game that continues to progress. And, of course, Converse already has a spokesperson lined up, after 23-year-old Phoenix Suns small forward Kelly Oubre turned down other offers to sign with other iconic sneaker companies.
Introduced in 1917, the Converse All-Star became the pinnacle of footwear in the decades following, thanks to a basketball player named Chuck Taylor. In 1932, Taylor’s signature was added to the classic, high-topped sneakers – and he never received a single royalty. Nike acquired the brand in 2003 for $305 million, at a time when the company was surviving thanks solely to it’s classic shoe. Today, Converse sells close to 100 million pairs of All-Stars every year, or about 270,000 per day. Nike has made out well with its investment, as Converse generates almost $2 billion annually, but can it compete on the basketball court?
With Adidas, Jordan and Nike dominating the sport and other companies such as Under Armour, Puma and New Balance recently throwing their hats in the ring, the basketball sneaker market is flooded with options for consumers. Converse has something those companies don’t, however – heritage. And Converse is certainly going to have to rely heavily on heritage to compete in the market. The new All-Star Pro BB took about a year to create, using past elements of shoes and incorporating them into a more technologically advanced shoe that’ll maximize performance. It will clearly pay homage to the Chuck Taylor’s canvas and patch, along with the Star Chevron, while featuring a Nike React core and a Quadfit mesh upper, making it lightweight and durable.
The All-Star Pro BB will come in two colors, white and black, and cost $140. It will be no easy task to leave an imprint on the market and build steam towards becoming a legitimate basketball shoe but it’s good to see Converse back where it belongs.