All our toes have wiggled around in the same sneakers - or brand anyway. As of this year, it’s a century old. You know the one: Converse. Maker of the Chuck Taylor All Star, the Weapon, Jack Purcells, and, at one time, rubber galoshes.
Yep, galoshes. The sneaker with the star logo worn by rock stars, athletes, and couch potatoes descends from a utilitarian clodhopper that first walked out of a factory - in Malden, no less - 100 years ago.
New England business sense birthed the brand. Basketball, rock, punk, skateboarding, and a misfit attitude are among the reasons Converse has lasted. (If you need an explanation of why the shoes are so cool, well . . . stop read- ing.)
“There’s nobody who doesn’t recognize the star, even if they don’t know who Chuck Taylor was,” said Ira Matathia, the 55-year-old director of consulting for New York-based Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve marketing firm. He started wearing Chuck Taylors at age 10 and the shoes have been aconstant.
That’s what Marquis Mills Converse was going for when he dreamed up the Converse Rubber Shoe Co. in 1908. Well, that and the fact that the former Boston department store manager wanted to skip the middleman and sell directly to retailers. So M.M., as he was known, opened a plant at 392 Pearl St. in Malden and began making waterproof, winterized boots and rubbers.
“The big idea upon which this firm has been built is that of direct and independent selling,” Converse wrote in an early newsletter, quoted in Emily Walzer’s “Converse: The History of Converse Inc. 1908-1996.” “By means of selling from manufacturer to retailer, more intimate relations can be maintained with the man who is in direct contact with the ultimate wearer of the shoe, and who knows best that wearer’s requirement.”
But, boy, were those boots unhip outside of winter, according to Walzer’s book. Converse had problems employing people year-round, so the company started churning out canvas sneakers. By 1915, business was hunky-dory winter, spring, summer, and fall.