The Virtues of Converse All-Stars

 
When I go on vacation, I try to avoid overpacking. Shoes, for many people, are where the wheels come off — figuratively, if not literally. So my rule is: WEAR a pair of stylish sneakers, PACK two pairs of proper shoes (a pair of black flats and either my leopard Mary-Janes or black penny loafers).

What do I mean by “stylish sneakers”? Well, the progenitor of stylish sneakers is the Converse All-Star, born in 1917 . . . although it was designed for sport rather than style. I’ve been wearing All-Stars, on and off, since my mother bought me a pair of Chuck Taylor high-tops in high school. I flirted with Keds and Tretorns in my teens and twenties, but those relationships are squarely in the past. I love Supergas and think they look best with dresses and capris. But for knocking around in jeans or khakis, I think Converse All-Stars can’t be topped.
 

 
 
Converse: Where can they go?
 
More like,
Where can’t they go?
To the park
To the park
To pet the local cars
To pet the local cars

To haggle; Desh: this is me trying on belts for you
To the market
Into tunnels
Into tunnels
And holes
And holes

 
Every town has a museum, even if it’s just a historical society displaying old clothes and stuffed birds.
 
I visit them all.
To the museum
To the museum!

I will go to any old museum
I will go to any old museum

According to Ines de la Fressange (model, muse of Karl Lagerfeld, authority on chic), “Converse are a religion for the Parisian.” I was very surprised to read this. But when I gave it a little more thought, it wasn’t surprising at all. The All-Star is a design classic, so the quality valued by the French is there. Moreover, Converse is well-suited to play the foil — a hallmark of French style — when opposites (feminine/masculine, formal/casual, sophisticated/naive) are so charmingly combined in one outfit.

Here’s some news. Converse announced at the end of July that it was re-tooling the All-Star. I know that some people resist change, but the described changes sounded like profound improvements to me: cushioning and arch support in the footbed and padding on the tongue. Even the most loyal Converse enthusiast must admit the sneakers required a little back-end hacking to make them comfortable for extended tunnel and hole exploration. In fact, the Converse that I’ve been wearing since 2011 (a couple of pairs in succession) came from a John Varvatos-Converse collaboration and already had these excellent features.

Chuck Taylor All Star [original] in Charcoal
Chuck Taylor All Star [original] in Charcoal
Chuck Taylor All Star II in Sodalite Blue
Chuck Taylor All Star II in Sodalite Blue

Don’t freak out. Converse is still selling the original. All Converse needs to do now is replicate every decorative stitch and line of the original in the new model (it needs that black outlining) or put the comfort features in the original model and everything will be perfect. Or as the devoted may say as they light candles for Chuck Taylor in Parisian churches, parfait. Let it never be said that The Directrice doesn’t embrace change! And double-negatives!

So, what shoes do you pack for walking around when you travel?

Nota bene: There is one easy hack that you can perform at home to make the II more like the original — replacing the black laces with white ones. This trick need not be limited to Converse. Different laces may improve (and certainly will change) the look of any laced shoe.

8 thoughts on “The Virtues of Converse All-Stars

  1. I am thrilled to learn about the changes coming to the All-stars, because I’m afraid my 40+ feet no longer can keep up with the style. I too have loved them since my high school days — perhaps they are acknowledging that their core fan base is getting older? But I heartily agree with your thoughts on vacation packing: I just got back from 3 weeks in Iceland and Germany, which did not include caves but did include museums, churches, cathedrals, vineyards, geysers and waterfalls, bike-riding, and climbing up every 300+step church tower my sons could find. A top notch sneaker for all of this and more was found courtesy of a tip from “Une Femme” (who was also, like you, packing stylishly for Paris: http://www.zappos.com/taos-footwear-freedom-pewter. These were more pricey than All Stars but supremely comfy through the whole journey. Bon voyage!

    • Welcome back, Bubu! It sounds like a wonderful trip and one your sons will never forget. Thank you for providing the link to the taos sneakers — they’re great!

  2. I love Converse and heartily agree with everything you have said. I actually have three pairs but have not tried the new version yet.

  3. I must admit, it was only after I saw The Directrice expertly rocking a pair of chucks on a casual Friday at the office that I finally felt comfortable wearing my own pair in (casual) business settings. I figured if she thought it was acceptable and fashionable – it no doubt was!

    • Ha! The Directrice, not content to corrupt young professionals in just one D.C. office building has gone global . . . Converse are just the thing for casual office retreats, too.

  4. Hello from Brisbane, Australia. I just discovered your site yesterday and this article has brought a big smile to my face. I’m 40+ and still love my Converse too. Now I know I’m not alone! I especially like navy ones at the moment because they go so well with denim. I also have a new pink pair that I’m looking forward to wearing with a white collared shirt and jeans. Thanks for a lovely article.

    • So glad you found the site — I hope you’ll keep coming back. At some point I will post something on dressing for travel and Converse will probably feature prominently. Thank you for visiting and commenting.

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