Monday, May 12, 2008

Rock your Converse

Converse launches Chuck Taylor design contest

The Chuck Taylor All Star isn't simply a venerable basketball sneaker or a nostalgic fashion statement; it's also a blank canvas, a clean slate that can serve as a medium for artistic expression.
Or so states Converse, the North Andover sneaker brand, which invites creative types to "Put your world on our canvas."

Along with Utah Jazz basketball star Kyle Korver, Converse is launching a contest that asks shoe artists to come up with designs of their very own All Star.

The contest is called MyChucks, and Converse promises to produce the winning entry and have it sold exclusively by Eastbay, a subsidiary of retailer Foot Locker Inc.

"As part of the contest, Kyle Korver submitted his own design of the Chuck Taylor All Star shoe, which will be featured online, along with a video of him designing his shoe and explaining the process," Converse said in a press release. "Korver's shoe features pinstripes to represent all of the people in his life, and a red stripe to represent himself and his desire to be an original. Converse will produce 226 pairs of the shoe, which pays homage to Korver's jersey number 26, and will be donated to the Kyle Korver Foundation, whose mission is to make a positive impact on the lives of under-privileged children by improving the quality of life for disadvantaged youth and their families."

To enter the MyChucks competition, contestants can visit to download the entry kit, which contains a silhouette of the Chuck Taylor All Star shoe and contest instructions, Converse said.

"Participants need to submit a scanned image of their design and a 20- to 30-second video explaining their entry," Converse said. "Submissions will be placed in an online, public gallery where visitors can vote on each design."

"Converse added: "The top five designs with the most votes will enter the final round of judging, which is determined by the total number of votes, and the judging of artistic ability, creative expression, and overall design by a panel from Converse and Eastbay. The grand prize will be announced on or about July 11, 2008 on"

Speaking of Converse...

Who was Chuck Taylor??

Who was Chuck Taylor? “The man’s biography begins and ends with his name,” Orange County Register columnist John Hughes once declared.

Not quite – Chuck Taylor was quite real. He played his first professional basketball game in March, 1919, while still a high school student in Columbus, Ind. He was 17 years old.

By the mid-1920s he was player-manager of a stellar group of cagers who shot hoops for the Converse All-Stars barnstorming team. The team traveled throughout the Midwest and featured Carlyle Friddle, one of the stars on the Franklin (Ind.) High School and college “Wonder Five.”

During World War II Chuck joined middle-aged high school and college coaches who worked as physical fitness instructors and coaches for the Army and the Navy. Chuck was a physical fitness instructor at a Navy “pre-flight” program at Marquette University coached the wonderful Wright Field Air-Tecs in 1944-45, at what is now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

College All-Americans and future NBA players such as Long John Mahnken, Big Ed Sadowski, Dwight “Dike” Eddleman, Bruce Hale, Al Negratti, Johnny Schick and others played for him.

Born Charles Hollis Taylor in rural Brown County in 1901, Chuck always wanted to be a star basketball player, and he almost was. His best team was the Akron Firestone Non-Skids in the early 1920s. The Non-Skids were an “industrial league” team, but in 1937 they were charter members with the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots and the Fort Wayne G.E. Techs in creating the National Basketball League. Though the Non-Skids folded during World War II, the National Basketball League merged with the Basketball Association of America in 1949 to form the NBA.

Chuck’s signature – that’s what most people know of him – was added to the Converse All Star shoe in 1932, after a series of business reversals for the company. Chuck, who had promoted himself via the Converse barnstorming team, and who had hosted countless “clinics” in high school and college basketball gyms across the country where he almost single-handedly taught Americans the fundamentals of basketball, became the new brand name for the shoe.

He started his All-American picks at this time, too. They were highly regarded because Chuck only selected players he had personally seen play, and he found talent in small Southeastern and Southwestern colleges where big-city sportswriters never went. He had a good eye, and his picks always were touted in the popular Converse Basketball Yearbook.

Chuck had his dark side, though. He, and his employer, often claimed that he was a veteran of the “World Champion” Original Celtics from New York City and “Olympic champion” Buffalo Germans. He was neither, but the myth helped sell shoes. And in 1957, he put on a basketball clinic at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., then ran off the with the athletic director’s wife. “He had women everywhere,” said long-time associate Joe Dean, retired athletic director at Louisiana State University.

No matter. His iconic shoe is part of Americana – look for it in the popular movie “Hoosiers,” or on Larry Bird’s feet while making a jump shot in high school, or as a popular, uniquely unisex “lifestyle” shoe everywhere.

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