Thursday, December 17, 2009

Redux: Chuck Taylor and LFG




























































From Basketball Digest-February, 1999: 

“In 1921, Converse hired a former athlete to help sell its shoes - Charles "Chuck" Taylor, a pre-World War I high school basketball star who later barnstormed with several teams, including the Original Celtics and the Akron Firestones. In 1921, Taylor went to Converse's Chicago office in search of an offseason job, and was hired by salesman Bob Pletz, a sportsman who was looking for athletes to help improve the company's canvas sneakers. Taylor offered some suggestions and modifications, which were implemented in 1921. Two years later, the sneaker underwent another modification -- Chuck Taylor's facsimile signature was added to the logo”.




When I was a kid I coveted a pair of Chuck Taylors. Perhaps they made them in children’s sizes but where I grew up, nobody carried them. Phil Nofals Fine Shoes….the source of 100% of my shodding from toddlerdom till I grew an adult sized foot, carried P.F. Flyers. Now don’t get me wrong, there was always excitement associated with getting a new pair of P.F. Flyers-mainly because you got some kind of tchotchke …a giveaway of some sort with the shoes. A decoder ring, a whistle...something. I think P.F. and Keds had an ongoing contest to one up the other with the giveaway thing.

I remember dress shoes from Phil Nofals during the early years being almost exclusively either Hush Puppies or Buster Brown. Shoe buying also seemed to be a seasonal thing with my mom. I’m sure I got other shoes during the interim… what with kids' feet tending to grow in addition to the time slots allotted for buying new shoes. But I don’t remember it that way. Seems like I got shoes twice a year. I got Acme cowboy boots every year when school started.

What I did not get was a pair of Chucks. The older boys had them but my foot wasn’t yet big enough to graduate from P.F. Flyers. Chucks kinda made P.F.s look to me, like my MG Midget did after I saw the Triumph GT-6. They just didn’t cut it anymore. And Keds…please. The big Chuck moment for me came when I could finally wear the smallest men’s size available. My memory is vivid…my mom took me to the sporting goods department at K-Mart (remember folks, this is Florence, S.C. in the early 1970’s) and I begged her to let me have the smallest size Chucks in stock….still a bit big…white high tops. I wore them out of the store. I might have slept in them that night.



































I was in Borders book store the other day just browsing, killing some time before I picked up LFG from school. Picked up the biography of Pete Maravich, the magical floor general from times past. Tons of black and white photos of Pistol Pete in the midst of his magic while at LSU. What caught my attention was that 100% of everyone in the shots had on Chucks. Maybe black or white …but they were 100% Chucks.













I didn’t see much variation in Pete’s shoes till I got to the photos of him on the pros. Funny also was the fact that all the players back then looked like they were wearing Hot Pants.



The University of South Carolina was at one time a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.Basketball coach Frank McGuire had in the early 1970’s, a pipeline of basketball talent coming down from the boroughs of New York City to play basketball for him. Those players were Gods to me. Especially John Roche. Traylor, Owens, Cremins, Riker, Dunleavy, Joyce, Powell…they were ok but John Roche was my idol. They all wore Chucks. I remember watching Roche untie and retie his Chucks when briefly being out of the game. Not sure why he did it….but I started doing it too.


I had a few pairs of Chucks but then I left them for another genre of shoes. By the time I
reached Junior High, I was too small to play basketball but I developed a passion for tennis. That led to the predictable series of shoes…Adidas Stan Smiths…Jack Purcells(Purcell was a Badminton player...no? ...I'm too lazy to look it up) Fred Perrys….Fred was also an avid table tennis player. I have a pair of Jack Purcells now. I love the old black and white photo of James Dean in khakis, feet propped up…shod in a pair of Jack Purcells. Then came Tretorn Canvas and Tretorn leather.

Now back to Chucks. Other than Purcells with khakis, I don’t wear athletic shoes unless I am “doing” the activity for which they are intended. Chucks years ago, seemed to slip into a goth/sloth genre and I think that look is silly as hell. I’m glad though, that Chucks survived by finding some segment of the population who is willing to buy them. You damn sure aren’t gonna see them on the hardwoods during March Madness.
Yesterday was shoe buying day with LFG. She’ll start tennis again in another month and needed proper shoes for the courts. We settled on a nice (and expensive….geez…the shoes are so tiny) pair of K-Swiss shoes for tennis. Then she eyed the pink Chucks for little girls. Twenty five more bucks...what the heck…I only have on child. She wore them out of the store. She did not-sleep in them last night.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

The pic of James Dean, Jack Purcells, Stan Smiths- all great stuff. We are definitely on the same wavelength. My niece also rocks the pink Chucks.

There is an amazing highlight reel of sorts on YouTube of Maravich doing things that only Magic could rival. Does anybody pass like that any more?

ilovelimegreen said...

I preferred Buster Browns to Hush Puppy shoes - the Buster Brown premiums were cooler! I begged for years for a pair of Jack Purcells - we called them fish heads - and finally got a pair when I was 11 or 12. About a year or so later I became fixated with my first pair of Tretnorns then Nikes and the Jack Purcells all of the sudden were not me.

ilovelimegreen said...

Not only do those players look as if they are wearing hotpants, but they look so thin and definitely unmuscular!

Toad said...

Great post. Since my initials are PF I wore them till I couldn't wear them anymore. Graduated to Jack Pucells in high school and have worn them since.

I have an uncle who lusts for my jacks. Shoes are funny that way. Give the little one a hug for me,

Anonymous English Female said...

Growing up in England I had Kickers as a kid - when not strapped into regulation brown Start-Rite's for school. When I finally got some oh-so-cool Chuck Taylors they were black and I wore them with a tutu and tartan tights. I'd have killed for pink ones!

longwing said...

I remember being gaga over some Pumas but those changed so much from year to year. Not the same thing. This is a pointless comment but I wanted to say hi. Hi.

Anonymous said...

Kids shoe buying USED to be fun - Remember that goose (at Red Goose shoe stores) plopping/laying a prize filled golden egg when you pulled its neck forward. The egg was designed to be a bank after you unloaded the prizes.

Check occasionally - Garnet HIll always clearances their kid Chucks enough that I've been coaxed into 6 pairs on an order....lots of colors/patterns.

My little girls insisted on their Tretorns for gym class for a long time, and finally had to decide on their own to convert to real running shoes after logging a few miles on the outdoor track.....

ADG said...

Anon...thanks. I won't check out the YouTube clip till later 'cause when I go there I end up spending an hour.

LimeGreen...I remember J.P. puking on my leather Tretorns one night at the K.A. house.

Toad...thanks. I'll be squeezin' the little youngun all weekend. Yep..Jacks remain my go to sneak these days.

AnonEng...My Chucks days are over.

Anon..yes I remember Red Goose and Buster Brown and Keds and PF Flyers mainly for the prizes you got with them.

RHW said...

Great post! My 10 year old daughter, CHW, is getting pink hi-top Chuck Taylors for Christmas this year. My oldest daughter, 13 year old MAW currently hates any type of athletic shoe. Instead, she rocks the Uggs with skinny jeans tucked in. Give me Chucks any day...

Patsy said...

I have low top Chucks in the very same pink. They make me happy and are excellent boat shoes.

Tretorns are still my go to sneaker for all non-athletic sneaker wearing occasions and scooter riding.

James said...

Man do i ever remember the feel of a new pair of Chucks! The spring they put in your step. Thanks for the memory jogger!

A.E.F. said...

ADG - so are my tutu and tartan tights days...

Jeremiah said...

I remember, must've been about 7th grade in the early 70s that I wanted a pair of Chucks. They were $9. My mom made me pay for half of them with my paper route money. Later, they were the shoe of choice for roofers working on shake roofs in Kansas City. I wore them then, too. I still have a pair, well, I only have the left one. Lost the right one a couple years ago and can't find it anywhere.

NCJack said...

I'm Jack Purcell Floyd, named after Mom's dad, "Mr. Jack", and she wanted to get me a pair of JPs and thought it was just darling. Even though I was a know-it-all snot at 14, I still felt bad to inform her that only "Converse All Stars" were the real acceptable thing. We never called them "Chucks"

CeceliaMc said...

I must be the only American in the world who hasn't owned a pair of tennis shoes since I was ten.

I didn't much like them then either.

I couldn't catch or hit a ball with anything even if it was the size of Alaska, and I don't do any exercise that can't be done barefooted.

I suppose if someone held a gun to my head and said, "Wear tennis shoes", I'd chose these "Chucks" ones.

They seem a lot more straight forward than the launching pad techno fiber Nike things.

K Swiss trainers said...

the blog is really nice and i really appreciate the bloger's effort anyway i would like to share a huge collection of the running shoes that provide the high level of the comfort.

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