Converse Sneakers which include Cons, Chuck Taylor All-Stars, Jack Purcell, One Star, and Star Chevron trademarks are one of the best-known footwear companies. One of the things that set them apart is their rubber soles and wrap-around strip on the shoes. The company has been around since 1908 and became a part of Nike in 2003. However, the company had humble beginnings. Marquee Mills was a footwear manufacturing plant located in Malden Massachusetts at the turn of the century. They started making shoes built for the cold New England winters and two years later got into the athletic shoe space. The first basketball shoe, the Converse All-Star hit the production lines in 1918. Five years later, one of the known shoes from the company, the Chuck Taylor, named after the basketball player, Charles H. “Chuck” Taylor was created after he came to the company concerned with aching feet.
The company shifted focus during World War Two but never lost sight of what made the company as well known as it is; the athletic shoe. After the end of the war, they started producing sneakers again which reached the height of popularity in the 50s and 60s. Holding on to the made in America image, the company even used a Converse Basketball Yearbook to promote the image. In 1970, Converse made a huge move in the shoe market and bought out one of its direct competitors, PF Fliers, owned by B.F. Goodrich. Unfortunately, this move created a maelstrom of anti-trust lawsuits. However, in the end, Converse was able to hold onto the Jack Purcell line and move forward. Around the same time, Converse lost its distinction as the one-stop for basketball shoes. However, in 1986 Converse found a way to reclaim its seat in the market with the Converse Weapon, a must-have for pro-basketball players who ran the court during that time.
When it was released in 1986, it was Converse’s most cutting edge shoe to date. Before its release Converse had tried several other incarnations of basketball shoes. When Larry Bird started his basketball career in 1979, he wore Converse All-Stars but once the company came out with the Converse Pros he upgraded. Throughout the early 80s, he wore these shoes that were made popular by Dr. J. Then, a year before Converse released the Weapons they tried a little bit more technology with the StarTech in 1985. However, it was the transition to the Weapons that put them on the map. It was the only shoe Bird used until he switched to the Converse Cons in 1991. Birds’ long history with the brand is part of the same iconic sports history where Chuck Taylor resides. The Converse Weapon was specifically designed for not only Bird but also another legend in the sport, Magic Johnson.
These days, it’s not uncommon for people to have signature labels or products that they promote all the time. However, in 1986 when Converse launched the weapon series, no one had thought to try this. According to Basketball Noise, the company used Magic Johnson and Larry Bird’s court rivalry as inspiration for the new footwear line. It was well known since it had been going on since 1979. For Johnson, the company created a purple shoe basing it on the team’s colors. However, they chose a classic black and white for the Bird shoe. Before Converse decided to introduce these shoes with the player’s signatures, the pair were already wearing them on the court. Additionally, they had a fierce rivalry, so the company was able to capitalize on this for marketing; including a “choose your weapon campaign” with both players.
Initially, Johnson refused to soothe the commercial with Bird. He even went so far as to say “you’re crazy, I’m not shooting no commercial with Larry.” Then there were additional conflicts. Johnson was under the mistaken impression the commercial was going to be filmed in Los Angeles. However, Bird was equally adamant that he wouldn’t go to the city where his rival played. So, to compromise the commercial was shot in French Lick Indiana. Pat Riley thought it was one of the funniest things since the small town didn’t get much celebrity action like this. The end was result make have been better but both players wanted it over with as quickly as possible. So, it was one day and done. Some questioned whether the basketball game in the shoot was staged since the two had such a fierce rivalry. Nonetheless, by the end, some of it calmed down and the pair were spotted making jokes. At one point, Bird even asked Johnson to his trailer for lunch with his mom. The Converse Weapon that was built on their rivalry became a catalyst for their friendship.
Later, the campaign went on to include Isiah Thomas, Bernard King, Kevin McCale, and Mark Aguire complete with Converse Weapons that matched their team colors. This was the first time that a company had used a famous athlete as the inspiration for a shoe. Listed on the Sotheby’s auction website are a lot of the shoes that sold for almost $13000. According to the posting, Johnson is the one who most closely aligned with the sneakers since the 1985 and 86 season is when these were first released. Aside from the striking gold and purple on the shoes, there is the word ‘Magic’ written on the upper portion of the shoe. After the initial success of these two shoes, the company went on to make more variations using the star player and team colors. many more basketball players including Isaiah Thomas and Kevin McHale were ready for their versions of the shoes. However, there was one basketball superstar who didn’t wear the shoes on the court in 1986, Michael Jordan. Shortly after the success of the converse marketing campaign, Nike introduced the swoosh. With it came the Air Jordans and all of the focus was pulled away from the Converse Weapons. However, this wasn’t the last time the world would see this shoe.
Converse remained the go-to basketball shoe throughout the 70s and 80s. However, they became less sought after the Nike Air Jordans and fell further behind after companies like Adidas entered the space. Many thought that the company played too heavily on the Chuck Taylors and didn’t continue to evolve after the Weapons. In the early 1990s Converse was in receivership and was bought by the company that initially pushed them out of the space, Nike, for $309 million. Even this partnership couldn’t restore Converse to its sought-after status on the basketball courts. One player, Udonis Haslem from the Miami Heat was the last person in the league to wear converse. However, they never completely gave up on one of their most famous shoes and it saw a revival in 2021.
Converse evolved the Weapons into the CX line which incorporated proprietary and EVA foams. Additionally, it was finally the modern sneaker that pushed the line out of the Chuck Taylor rut. When looking at the new version some of the overall design was heavily brought back from the original shoes. According to Input Magazine, the upper portion of the shoe is the closet the design team could get. However, the super t is the place where the most work was done. One of the new designs was called the Aeon Active CX which was promoted as a combination running and lifestyle shoe. Even though the COnverse Weapon was overshadowed by Adidas and Nike and various parts of its history, this version was thought by some to be better overall. The shoe is similar to the Adidas Ultra Boost or the Nike React. However, the company had a better insole and the canvas made them easier to break in. One of the biggest overhauls on the shoe was the subtler outward appearance. Let’s face it the 80s were a time when the more flashy and extreme the better. After all, this is the decade where neon reigned supreme. However, the updated Converse Weapons are a more neutral tone. They almost seem to channel the future with the clean lines. However, it’s not a shoe that will trend on the basketball court anytime soon. The company plans on coming back to the design in the future and even after decades away, there was an immediate draw to the iconic shoe.
Converse is well-known for taking some of their most well-known and well-loved shoe designs and giving them a new fan base. Moreover, many of their shoes seem to go with everything. Both of these reasons are why the return of the Weapon was so well received. After all, with everything going on in the world we all need some nostalgia for simpler times. Even though the shoe was mostly touted as a lifestyle brand the company still gave a nod to one of its original with the Converse Weapon CS Mid in a color known as University Red. With its bold look, it harkens back to the team colors that made the shoes famous. One notable feature of these was that the soles had a weathered yellow look making them feel like they were made in the 80s. After the initial release, the company once again capitalized on the success and released a more colorful line of the shoes under the heading ‘Mid.’ Like the white and green combination as well as the red shoes had colors similar to what we would see on sports jerseys.
When you pair it with the retro feel of the shoe, they feel like even more of a throwback. This series was known as the loyalty pack. One of the colors in the group is called Kinectic Blue. The overall design and color make them look nearly animated. One of the things the original design lacked was more support for the wearer. This feature was certainly fixed. There was a Y-pattern on the upper portion of the shoe as well as updated CX-foam technology. One thing remained the same, the Converse logo. The third version of the revamped Converse Weapon was the Converse Weapon 86. According to Footlocker Unlocked, the store sold three color patterns in store. The black and white was an obvious nod to the original Weapons made for Larry Bird. Instead of the bright yellow from the Magic Jerseys, the purple pair has a subtle black detailing. The third pattern is red and blue with a bright white sole making them feel like they belonged on the feet of clippers players. The fourth color palette is green and white. Looking back, the original Larry Bird design felt much closer to the classic. However, this special edition was likely a nod to the Celtic’s colors. After all, that team defined the legendary basketball player’s career.
Converse’s global design director, Matt Sleep once said, “the weapon was the dominant shoe in the ’80s, but now it’s a little bit less known. It’s a bit of an outsider, and now we have the responsibility of educating kids today on the history of the game and its equipment and contemporize it as well.” Basketball and Converse have a long and storied history. When you look at early photographs it’s hard not to see someone wearing one of the iconic stars. However, much like everything else in life, the game got new technology including shoes that help keep athletes in tip-top shape. When the weapons first hit the market in 1986 they were cutting edge but were too soon overshadowed by the next greatest thing. Nonetheless, they live on in the annals of Converse History, so much so that they saw another incarnation of popularity. Fans of the shoes will certainly be watching for headlines about what will happen next with the Converse Weapons.