An annual rite of spring for me--for twentysome years now--is buying (these days, ordering) a new pair of Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star Hi-Tops.
I have reached that awkward age where the daily sneaker of choice for year-round wear is something that can be spotted on mall-walkers. (I favor New Balance, myself.)
But since I was a kid, I've worn canvas Converse Chucks during warm weather.
Plain old cloth basketball shoes; in fact, with a well-worn pair of jeans and a baggy T-shirt, that's been my standard summer uniform for all the phases of my adult life so far, from college student to middle-aged Company Man.
Naturally, I took notice of an article in today's Washington Post:
...[B]asketball is not what made Converse what it is. That would instead be irony, iconoclasm, a permanent customer base of misfits who all own several pairs of Chucks. Converse owes an enormous debt to rebels, greasers, juvenile delinquents, punk rockers. For all its heritage in hoopsters, the brand subsists on hipsters, which is why the company will soon unveil, without a smidgen of blasphemy, a series of its famous All-Stars and One-Stars with Kurt Cobain's signature and scribbled excerpts from his journals.
Kurt Cobain! Who shot himself 14 years ago and whose lifeless body was partially pictured in a memorable news photograph from the scene of his death, where you can see that he died in his Converse One-Stars. Like every punk rocker on the planet who came before him and after him, the Nirvana frontman almost always wore low-top Chuck Taylor All-Stars or One-Stars or Jack Purcells, and they were always ratty, dirty, holey -- and on him, in the end, holy.
The Cobain shoes will sell for the unpunk price of $50-$65, suggested retail; inside of one of the soles is a Sharpie scrawl that reads, a la Kurt, "Punk rock means freedom." From fans of Nirvana this has elicited only slight dismay -- Courtney Love strikes again, etc. From Converse collectors, there are advance orders. But still, the most impressive reaction is so very like Converse wearers themselves:
From Hoops to Hipsters (Washington Post, 28 March 2007)
It's a fascinating article.
Did I succumb to a marketing campaign all those years ago when I started wearing Chucks? Buy a pair in the spring, wear them all summer and discard them (in tatters) in the fall?
Dunno. But it's been part of the rhythm of my life for a long time now.
Ordered some new Chucks today.
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