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ISSUE 120 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/22/2006

Old shoes find new glory

By Lauren Radomski
Variety Editor

Friday, September 22, 2006

Fashion trends may come and go, but for some Oles, Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars last a lifetime. Distinguished by their white rubber soles, toe guards and “All-Star” patches, these classic athletic shoes have passed the test of time, gaining a loyal following over more than 70 years.

Also known as Chucks, Connies and Chuck Norrises, these canvas sneakers make more than just a fashion statement.

“They're shoes to make memories in,” said Sean Johnson '07, who associates his first pair, black high-tops, with a trip to Europe. “They're very personal.”

Senior Chloe Cotherman's fondness for Chucks dates back to childhood. “My first pair of sneakers was a pair of bright yellow high-tops,” she said, recalling the various colors her father purchased for her as a kid.

“I kind of like standard black and low-top,” she said, referring to her current pair.

One appeal of Chucks is their availability in a wide assortment of colors, patterns and fabrics, as well as the option between a high-top or low-top ankle. People seeking an even more unique look can customize a pair at the Converse website.

Katie Wisdom '10 is the owner of customized Chucks, which she received as a gift before leaving for college. Black and gold with a pink tongue and Wisdom's name embroidered along the heel, “They're my St. Olaf Converse,” she said.

Some styles of Chucks are harder to find than others, as Johnson found out over the summer. He took advantage of a trip to Germany to seek out a design that has been discontinued online.

“Most of my time in Berlin was spent finding these things,” he said of his leopard-print high-tops.

Chucks are also personalized by the wear and tear that occurs with use. In fact, some people, such as Sam Brown '10, prefer a well-used pair over brand new. “Usually they get pretty worn out,” he said. “But I like them worn out.”

The popularity of Chucks is not a new phenomenon. First produced in 1917, the All-Star style became well-known after basketball player Chuck Taylor began promoting the shoes at games in the early 1920s. Elvis, members of the Ramones and Kurt Cobain are just a few of the pop-culture icons who have sported these sneakers.

So is there anything wrong with these hallowed shoes? “Some people don't like them because they have low arch support,” Wisdom said.

According to Liz Norton '07, the owner of black low-tops, “They don't have a lot of cushion. That's a major drawback.”

For many people, however, the benefits of Chucks outweigh any shortcomings. As Johnson pointed out, Chucks are great concert-going shoes; the rubber toe guards protect your toes when stepped on. In addition, the shoes are washable, comfortable and good for all seasons.

“The high tops are good for winter because they keep my ankles warm,” said Wisdom.

The longevity and inter-generational appeal of these sneakers have made Chucks the best-selling athletic shoe in history, with 575 million pairs produced over the past 71 years. As Johnson put it, “They're like Oles: you go anywhere in the world and they're there.”

By far, the hardest part of owning Chucks is saying good-bye. “I've never had to throw a pair away,” said Johnson. “I don't know what that's going to be like.”

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