If there was ever a sneaker silhouette that defined a brand, it’s the Converse Chuck Taylor. The shoe’s been adored and worn for generations. Your parents probably owned a pair of Chucks. Your grandparents probably owned a pair of Chucks. You probably own a pair of Chucks. There's a pair sold every second. So when Converse designers got the brief to bring the Chuck Taylor into the 21st century, they had one simple goal: “Don’t fuck it up.”
“We had to be respectful of our past,” said Richard Copcutt, vice president and general manager of Converse All Star. “One of the values that we’ve worked in as a company is about respecting our past and moving forward. I think this is the classic example of that.”
At first glance, the Converse Chuck II may not look that much different than its predecessor—the Converse All-Star. That similar aesthetic is very intentional, but there’s definitely more to the construction than what you think.
“Instantaneously, you recognize it as a Chuck but our invitation to consumers is, 'Come closer and take a look at it in more detail.' You’ll spot the difference,” Copcutt said. “This isn’t a sneaker that we would toy with lightly. It’s something that we definitely respect—our past; we’re famous for it.”
What exactly is different? Copcutt, and Converse Creative Director of Global Footwear Bryan Cioffi, broke down the unseen upgrades found in the Chuck II, the makings behind the final design, and what you can expect from the latest addition to the Converse portfolio.
Converse settled on the name Chuck II after...
“We had a naming summit. We sat there. We argued, and we wrote on a board for hours and hours and hours. Ian, our marketing guru, walks in on his way to have a cigarette, and he goes, ‘What are you guys talking about? Call the damn thing Chuck 2. I’m gonna have a cigarette.’ And we were just like, '...that’s it.' And it’s stuck ever since,” Cioffi said.
Converse created a brand new canvas for the Chuck II.
The design team spent over a year developing a new material application for the Chuck II. The result was a tensile canvas that’s lighter, stronger, and even more sustainable than the original. However the differences are more noticeable to the touch.
Sizing on the Chuck II runs a bit more true to size than the original Converse All-Star.
It’s a well-known fact that Converse All-Stars can run up to a full-size big. However, due to all of the comfort additions found in the sequel, sizing will feel a little more snug than in the past. “The Chuck II is what we’re internally calling a comfort fit because the comfort is 360 degrees around your foot,” Copcutt said. “Upon initial wearing, you’re just not used to having a Chuck Taylor that kind of cushions the top of your foot as well.”
There were 42 different versions of the All-Star patch.
Before finalizing the look of the patch, the design team argued over several versions of what it should look and feel like. The final product was a fully-embroidered logo. "You talk about blood, sweat, and tears. We had to fight over this patch," Cioffi said.
In fact, every detail of the Chuck II was scrutinized, down to the length of the aglets on the shoelaces.
"We spent about three or four hours in one meeting debating how long the aglet should be," Copcutt said. "So for you product geeks, you'll notice that the aglet on the Chuck II is slightly longer than on the original Chuck for easier threading."
The natural gum rubber found on the outsole was developed specifically for the Chuck II and is banned from being used on any other Converse product.
Memory foam was added to the tongue of the Chuck II, but figuring out how much to put in was a bit of a challenge.
“Memory foam has to be obsessed to an insane degree,” Cioffi said. “Too much, it becomes like an overstuffed pillow that’s too hard. Too little, the upper feels like a used gym sock with no elastic that’s too slumpy.” There's also a full-length Lunarlon sockliner in the Chuck II—a tech borrowed from Converse's parent company Nike.
Unlike the original All-Star, the upper on the Chuck II doesn’t bunch up as easily because of how the upper is designed.
Perforated micro-suede was added to the collar and halfway down the shoe at a specific angle. Not only is this meant for breathability, but it also keeps the upper from rolling over, slumping, and bunching up.
The Converse Chuck II has a full-length Lunarlon sockliner.
Nike's Lunarlon has been applied to Converse's skate performance sneakers and even the Jack Purcell. But, just because we're seeing more updated tech on Converse silhouettes doesn't mean the brand is trying to get back on the hardwood. “We’re not aiming this to get back on the NBA court. That’s not the goal of it. But we definitely think we’ve got a sneaker here that could perform to today’s needs of our consumer,” Copcutt said. “I don’t know enough about basketball, frankly enough, to know what the ultimate demands of the athletes look like. We have a parent company that makes a good living out of providing sneakers for NBA stars.”
Don’t be surprised if you see other Nike technologies make its way on to future versions of the Converse Chuck.
“The nature of the work of innovation is sort of really secretive. We can’t really foreclose some of the things that we have coming,” Cioffi said. “The only thing I can say is that we are constantly working and we have things coming that you will absolutely be excited about.”
Collaborations on the Chuck II are definitely on the way for 2016.
“We’re working on things and they’ll be coming out next year and this year,” Copcutt said, adding that three new coloways will be dropping around the holiday season. “Our business plan is sort of to invent this Chuck II for the rest of this calendar year. We’ll obviously freshen the color palette as we move towards the holidays.”