Sneaker culture fascinates and confounds me.
On one hand, I thoroughly enjoy the fact that the average guy has moved beyond the stereotypical idea that “only women care about shoes,” and realizes that if he cares about his hat, shirt, and pants, it only makes sense to pay attention to what slips on his feet. A quality shoe complements and outfit, and in some cases, augments it.
On the other hand, when I see the huddled masses lined outside a Footaction at the crack of dawn to be the first to cop the new Jordans, I weep a little inside. It’s the same disgusted feeling that washes over me when I see people camped outside of an Apple Store, sometimes days at a time, to purchase an iPhone or iPad that’s marginally superior to the ones they currently carry. A culture of out-of-control capitalism has programmed the populace to drool on command, and it’s sickening.
So, sneaker culture is bewildering. Admittedly, I’m way out of the loop, and not at all a member of the club. Besides the odd sneaker I’d buy when I was power-running from 2004 to 2006, I haven’t owned an athletic shoe for casual use since my late-20s.
A few weeks ago, I deep dived into YouTube sneaker videos after reading that Nike owns Converse, the company’s former rival. I also discovered that The House of Jordans created a follow-up to the classic Chuck Taylor All Star sneaker: the appropriately named Chuck Taylor All Star II. This fascinated me.
I was born in the mid-1970s, so I remember a pre-Jordans New York City when Chuck Taylors, Pumas, and shelltop Adidas dominated the New York City urban footwear scene. My older cousins were really into Chucks, which I considered one of the smoothest-looking kicks on the market. I loved the black-and-white color contrast. I dug the cool stitching. I appreciated how you could rock them with anything. But, the shoe’s lack of cushioning meant that walking in a pair of Chucks was mildly better than walking barefoot on concrete. Whenever I tried on my cousin’s Chucks to practice my b-boy stance, I soon tossed them. My tender toes just couldn’t handle the shoe.
However, when I learned that the new Chuck Taylor All Star II leveraged contemporary shoe technology for a more comfortable fit than its predecessor, I immediately pulled out the debit card and pointed my computer’s Web browser to Converse.com. I needed to try the shoe. I wasn’t disappointed.
- The sneaker comes bundled with a slip-in Lunarlon insert that offers extra support. YES.
- There’s better construction on display: the show is softer and has upper support. YES.
- The classic logo is a sewn-on patch instead of a paint job. KINDA DIG.
- It lacks the classic stitching and black sole stripe. BOO.
- A padded, non-slip tongue. YES.
Long story short: The Chuck Taylor All Star II is a well-designed sneaker that’s easier on the soles than the original shoe. In fact, they’ve become my official casual footwear as I semi-obsessively try to make 60,000 steps per week. Yes, I’ve joined the church of Fitbit. Hallowed be its name.
A few days ago, I stumbled upon a playground on Houston Street while wearing my Chucks. Men of various ages and races balled hard on the blacktop, as they shot, passed, and jumped in the spring air. Other than my own shoes, there wasn’t a set of Chucks in my immediate vicinity.
It’s 2016, not 1979. Sneaker culture, like society as whole, bends and morphs as the years trot forward. The Chuck Taylor All Star is no longer a b-baller’s shoe, because more comfortable, sports-friendly options exist. That said, the sneakers have transformed into something greater than their original purpose.
The brand is found in the office, the diner, the lab, the class, the club, and the park. The shoe’s classic design makes it acceptable casual wear, as well as a shot of downtown cool while dressed up. But for me, the Chuck Taylor All Star II is improved nostalgia.