‘Chucks’ named after one of our own

Though many know just the name of the iconic shoe brand, Chuck Taylor was a real person, and was born in Brown County, Indiana on June 24, 1901 as Charles Hollis Taylor.  

“Chuck,” as he later became known, played basketball for Columbus High School in Columbus, Indiana, before a short-lived semi-pro career for the Columbus Commercials (authors sidenote: horrific name for a sports team) and with two other Indianapolis area semi-professional teams.

In 1921, after his basketball playing career had ended, Taylor walked into the Chicago headquarters of Converse to complain about having sore feet.  Surprisingly, Converse humored him, which led to what was essentially a sales pitch. Taylor offered ideas as to how to improve Converse’s line of footwear, especially the All-Star shoes worn by basketball players.

When his impromptu sales pitch ended, Taylor found himself being offered employment by Converse.  For the then “hefty” amount of $50 per month, Taylor was tasked with traveling around the country to pitch and sell Converse shoes to both amateur and professional basketball teams.

Converse All-Stars had existed since 1917, and it was that exact pair that Taylor helped redesign, then sold like wildfire everywhere he went.  By the early 1930s, Converse had re-styled the shoes to include the now iconic All-Star logo, as well as Taylor’s own signature scrawled on the side.  Upon doing so, the shoes became forever known as Chuck Taylor All-Stars, no longer being called Converse All-Stars. 

In recent decades they have become more commonly referred to as, simply, “Chucks.”

Chuck Taylor All-Stars went on to become not only a major seller with basketball players, but with athletes of just about any sport.  Sales of Chuck Taylor All-Stars dominated the footwear market for decades, and remain to this day the best-selling athletic shoe of all time.

Chuck Taylor continued to work for Converse until his retirement in 1968, unknowingly timing it just right, as the iconic shoe appeared to peak in sales in the mid-1970s.  However, thanks to pop-culture superstars such as Elvis and the punk-rock band The Ramones (which frequently wore the shoes on-stage), along with their inclusion over the years in beloved movies such as “Rocky,” “Back to the Future,” and “The Sandlot,” the shoe saw a resurgence in sales time and time again. 

Despite the continued up-and-down sales, Converse eventually began to struggle as a company, and in 2003 they were purchased by athletic wear powerhouse Nike.  Nike quickly moved all manufacturing and production for the Converse line overseas, reducing production costs while raising their profits.

The affordability, combined with the comfort and simplicity of the shoe, is what has kept sales booming since the late 1920s.  As recently as 2017, Chuck Taylor All-Stars were the #2 best-selling sneakers of the year in the United States.

As for Chuck Taylor, after his retirement from Converse in 1968, he was inducted into both the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame for his invaluable contributions to the sport via his namesake footwear.

Sadly, Taylor’s retirement was short lived, as he passed away the day before his 68th birthday, on June 23, 1969.  Though gone, his legacy continues to live on thanks to the continued success of the Chuck Taylor All-Star shoe.

Converse shoes may not have been invented in Indiana, but a Hoosier redesigned and perfected them.  The world of athletic footwear may be entirely different had Indiana’s own, Chuck Taylor, not done so.