Converse and its iconic Chuck Taylors find a home near North Station
Converse has a long and proud Massachusetts history. The Converse Rubber Shoe Company was founded in Malden in 1908 to make winterized rubber-soled shoes. It didn’t start making athletic shoes until 1915, when it manufactured its first tennis shoes.
Those weren’t the now well-known “Jack Purcells”; Purcell, a Canadian badminton champion in the ’20s and ’30s, designed sneakers for B.F. Goodrich in the ’30s, and it wasn’t until the 1970s that Converse acquired the rights.
Meanwhile, in 1920, the company gave its sneakers the name “All Star.” 1921, basketball player Charles H. “Chuck” Taylor arrived at Converse’s door complaining of sore feet. Converse promptly gave him a job as salesman and ambassador. In 1932, Taylor’s signature was added to the All Star patch on the high-topped sneaker.
Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, and most of the NBA adopted Converse as their shoe of choice in the ’50s and ’60s. The Celtics wore black; Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors in 1962 while wearing a pair of Chucks.
The brand got another boost in the 1980s, when the company, facing intense pressure from other athletic brands such as Nike, launched “The Weapon” by signing on tow of basketball’s biggest stars to endorse it -- Hall of Famers Larry Bird of the Celtics and Magic Johnson of the Lakers. The two filmed a commercial for the shoe in Bird’s hometown of French Lick, Indiana.
The brand fell on hard times in the decades following, filing for bankruptcy in 2001. Nike bought the brand in 2003 for $309 million. Though it had disappeared from the NBA, the brand lived on in the streets and among celebrities, several of whom -- Drew Barrymore, Kristen Stewart -- wore Converse on the red carpet.
In 2013, the company decided to move its headquarters to Boston from North Andover and make a big, bold statement on the skyline, with the Converse sign in lights atop its new building.
“We are going to get a lot of tourists and visitors, and I hope we can play a small part in their total visit to Boston,” said Jim Calhoun, the chief executive of Converse. “I hope we can also be a place that Bostonians can be excited about. I hope that they are as proud of us being here as we are to be here.”