With its plant in Lumberton, North Carolina, Converse is the largest U.S. footwear manufacturer. The Lumberton facility produces approximately eight million pairs of shoes annually. Converse currently distributes products to more than 9,000 athletic specialty, sporting goods and department stores in more than 90 countries.
Chuck Taylor was an original all-star himself. No one has done more to naturally promote a product, and in so doing Taylor became the very first athletic shoe endorser. Charles "Chuck" Taylor was born June 24, 1901, and grew up outside of Columbus, IN where he was a high school basketball star. After finishing high school, Taylor played professionally, before the organization of leagues as we now know them, with teams in Ft. Wayne and Detroit. He also barnstormed around the country with the original Celtics and played for the Buffalo Germans and Akron Firestones basketball teams.
Luckily for Converse, Taylor chose the All Star® as his athletic shoe. His interest in the sneaker and the sport of basketball brought him to the Converse Chicago sales offices in 1921 in search of a job. S.R. "Bob" Pletz was in charge of the Chicago sales office at the time. Pletz was an avid fisherman and sportsman and always took an interest in other sports-minded people. His hiring of Chuck led the way for future basketball players to become part of the Converse management team.
Within a year, Taylor's input led to a slight re-styling of the All Star, making the sneaker even more suitable for playing basketball. Two years later, in 1923, Chuck Taylor's signature was added to the All Star ankle patch in recognition of his significant contributions.
During World War II, Taylor served in both the Navy and the Air Force as a consultant on physical fitness and as the coach of the Wright A.F.B. basketball team.
Right from the beginning of his Converse career, Taylor took his sneakers on the road, driving to small towns all over America, conducting basketball clinics and selling shoes. "Chuck's gimmick was to go to a small town, romance the coach and put on a clinic. He would teach basketball and work with the local sporting goods RETAIL, but without encroaching on the coach's own system. He drove a big car, a Cadillac. And his home was the back of the car. He was a pipe smoker and talked with an Indiana drawl. I was fond of Chuck," recalls Steve Stone, former Converse president.
Gib Ford, former Converse chairman and Joe Dean, former Converse vice president of promotions, worked directly with Chuck Taylor, during their years as salesman. They respected his marvelous ability and unfailing enthusiasm to promote both the game of basketball and Converse shoes.
"Chuck's route never varied. He would stay at the same motels, meet with the same friends, eat at the same restaurants. He would also play golf 365 days a year. He was a down-to-earth, regular guy who had a charming way about him. People liked Chuck because what he was doing was great for them and great for the sport," asserts Ford.
"Chuck knew every basketball coach in the country. He drove cross-country giving clinics and promoting Converse constantly on the road. He never had a home. He kept his things in storage in a locker in the Chicago warehouse and to him, Christmas was just another day. Chuck paved the way for Converse to be what it is today," recalls Joe Dean.
Basketball and improving the game for players, spectators and coaches was Taylor's aim in life. Throughout his career with Converse, Taylor received numerous awards for his achievements and outstanding contribution to basketball including being elected to the Sporting Goods Hall of Fame in 1958.
In 1968 Taylor retired. That same year he was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame, and was formally inducted the following spring of 1969 along with Arnold "Red" Auerbach, Henry "Dutch" Dehnert, Henry Iba and Adolph Rupp.
Taylor was the first endorser and spokesperson for Converse and rightly earned the moniker, "Ambassador of Basketball." He died in June of 1969 at the age of 68.
The Converse® Jack Purcell® sneaker, with its clean lines and signature blue smile at the toe, is often called the quintessential tennis sneaker. However, this sleek classic had its beginnings on the badminton court when it was donned by one of the sport's great heroes, Jack Purcell.
Born in Guelph Ontario, Jack Purcell began his badminton career in the 1920s and by 1924 had already garnered numerous championships on the court. In 1929, he won the Canadian Singles Championship and then went on in 1930 to retain his title by beating the four best British players, who were making the Canadian circuit.
In England, home of the sport, Purcell continued his triumphs, winning the Surrey doubles in 1931. Several years later in 1933, upon turning in his amateur status to play professionally, Purcell became the world champion. In order to provide more protection for the foot, Purcell helped to design the Jack Purcell sneaker originally introduced by the Canadian footwear division of B.F. Goodrich in 1935.
Jack Purcell's badminton career began winding down during World War II due to lack of racquets and birds and Purcell retired as an undefeated champion. His post-badminton years were spent in Canadian business circles, where he was a member of the Toronto Stock Exchange. Purcell died in Canada in 1991 at the age of 87.
The Jack Purcell sneaker carries on the legacy left by the great badminton player. Converse acquired the Jack Purcell trademark with its purchase of the B. F. Goodrich rubber division including its Lumberton, NC manufacturing facility in 1972 and continues to market this sought-after shoe. Manufactured in Lumberton, this simple canvas shoe with the light blue rubber sole is now the choice of fashionable athletes for off-court wear. No doubt, Jack Purcell would approve.
Many shoe companies now feature models that are "retro-styled" or nostalgic. Why go for something that's simply retro, when you can have the authenticity of the original? Converse and the Converse Star line. Embraced by generations of athletes and members of the counterculture as well, the Chuck Taylor® All Star® is a true American classic loved by all. Through innovations, leadership, and contributions to the evolution and popularity of athletics, Converse has been forever fused with the heritage and soul of American sports. Converse shoes have gone one step further, taking the same ingenuity of their sports and casual lines and applying it to a line of work shoes and boots. With nearly a century of authentic sports history and footwear innovation beneath its laces, Converse is America's original sports company.