Music and fashion are inextricably linked, and the two go in cycles. If tie-dye, bobs, or boy bands aren’t popular at some point, wait a few years, they’ll come back strong, maybe at the same time. But that rule never applied to Converse, the classic sneaker brand that’s been the favorite shoe of the world’s coolest and most innovative musicians for nearly 50 years.
That shouldn’t change any time soon. According to a recent Ad Age-Harris poll, Converse is one of America’s top brands when it comes to catching the attention of Gen Z. Not bad for a company that’s been around since 1908 and sells its signature shoe. , Chuck Taylor All. Stars, aka “Chucks”, for about a century.
It’s easy to see why artists favor the brand, Chucks in particular. Shoes are sleek and stylish – they’re as much a part of classic American fashion as jeans and leather jackets – but affordable and unassuming. They look fresh out of the box or ratty and tattered. Pair them with khakis, skinny jeans, fishnets or whatever else you have on hand.
We’ve teamed up with Klarna to trace the long history of the intersection between Chuck Taylors and popular music. Read on to find out how generations of groundbreaking artists across genres rocked Chucks while shaking the world. You can also order custom chucks to show off your own uniqueness.
Punks in chucks
For about 50 years, beginning in the early 1920s, Chuck Taylors were America’s favorite athletic shoe. But with the rise of competing sneaker companies in the late ’70s, Chucks moved from the basketball court into the cutting-edge music world. It all started with punk.
No band played a greater role in establishing punk as we know it than The Ramones, who formed in Queens, New York in 1974 and adopted a uniform of motorcycle jackets, ripped jeans and canvas sneakers. Although none of the members actually rocked Chucks on the cover of the band’s 1976 self-titled debut album, bassist Dee Dee and drummer Marky Ramone began wearing Converse soon after, and the shoe became synonymous with the band.
The Ramones call New York club CBGB home, which also spawned Blondie, managed by the beaming Debbie Harry. On the cover of Blondie’s seminal 1978 album parallel lines, two of the male members standing behind Harry pair Chucks with black suits and skinny ties. It wouldn’t be the last time someone would adopt this look.
West Coast Chucks
In the ’80s, as hip-hop began to take over mainstream music, the commercialization of sneaker culture exploded alongside it. While East Coasters such as Run, Grandmaster Flash and A Tribe Called Quest have moved to more colorful new-school brands, West Coast MCs have embraced the more laid-back style associated with Converse All-Stars.
Leading the charge of California rap icons who donned Chucks was pioneering band NWA, who can be seen sporting canvas high-tops in several iconic photos from the late ’80s. Paired with khaki pants and a plain t-shirt, a new pair of black Chucks was the perfect way for the band to emulate the gritty vibe of their neighborhoods.
Over the next two decades, NWA’s love for Chuck Taylors was also passed on to the next wave of West Coast legends, including Snoop Dogg, who referenced the brand in 20 of his songs and donned Chucks. in clips for some. of his greatest hits, including “Gin and Juice”. He even rocked a pair of white, yellow-laced All Stars during his 2022 Super Bowl halftime performance.
All Alternative Rock Stars
In 1991, the American punk movement that had been building for a decade finally exploded onto MTV and mainstream radio in the form of Nirvana. The Seattle trio were labeled “grunge” and “alternative”, as were their Pacific Northwest colleagues like Mudhoney and Pearl Jam. All of these bands wore Chuck Taylors, but Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain is the era figure most closely associated with the shoe. He notably wrote “endorsement” on the toes of his black low-top shoes, offering a sly commentary on the notion of corporate sponsorship.
The same year “Smells Like Teen Spirit” created a mood change in the rock world, Boston ska-punk pioneers The Mighty Mighty Bosstones became the first band to appear in a Converse commercial. The original location sent another signal that Chucks were shoes for the out-of-the-box thinker, like those who would dare to dress head-to-toe in plaid and combine Jamaican ska with hardcore and metal.
Other ’90s alt-rock heavyweights known to do battle in Chucks include Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rancid, Radiohead, Gin Blossoms and Green Day, who roam the streets of San Francisco in Chucks in the video for ” When I Come Around” from 1994.”
The anguish of all the stars
Sixties proto-punk and garage rock made a big comeback in the early 2000s, and a New York-based band was at the forefront of the revival movement. Known for their unkempt black hair, devilish attitudes and masterful debut in 2001, Is this this, The Strokes consciously adopted Converse as their shoe of choice so that there was no doubt that they were part of a group when they walked down the street. Drummer Fabrizio Moretti and guitarist Nick Valensi each rock All Stars on the band’s very first NME cover and in the music video for the band’s enduring hit, “Last Nite”.
The Strokes weren’t the only rockers to signal their rock star attitude with Converse in the 2000s, either. Blink-182 and the Arctic Monkeys can be seen wearing All Stars in major music videos (“All the Small Things” and “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor”, respectively), and emo-rock hitmakers Fall Out Boy shout the mark on their 2003 track “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose (But I’m Gonna Give It My Best Shot )”.
Around the same time, Chucks also began to infiltrate mainstream pop, thanks in large part to resident cool and angsty girl Avril Lavigne. Inspiring legions of young girls to follow suit, the Canadian pop-punk superstar wore black Chucks seemingly everywhere she went, and she represented the brand heavily in her Top 10 music video “Sk8ter Boi.” In the latter half of the decade and into the 2010s, pop stars like Demi Lovato, Aly & AJ, and Rihanna also nodded to Converse in their lyrics, in an effort to highlight their girl personas. cool.
Back in the 2010s
According to a Genius search, the artist who has used the word “Chucks” the most in their song lyrics is rapper-turned-pop-punk Machine Gun Kelly, who shot to fame in the 2010s. MGK rapped or sang the word 22 times. And he’s not the only superstar musician of the past 15 years to have made Chuck Taylors a major part of their image. Following in NWA’s footsteps, next-gen LA rappers The Game, ScHoolboy Q and the late Nipsey Hussel have all verified Chucks name in 10 or more songs. Overall, The Game is the artist with the most Converse mentions: he’s rapped “Chucks”, “Converse” or “Chuck Taylors” in 48 different songs.
Wiz Khalifa is another 21st century rapper with a soft spot for Chucks. He’s referenced All Stars in at least a dozen songs, and his entertainment company, Taylor Gang, is partly named after the shoe. In 2013, the same year he teamed up with Converse on the Chuck Taylor All Star Wiz Khalifa collection, Khalifa managed to own 200 pairs of Chucks.
The biggest names in pop also love Chucks. Olivia Rodrigo shows off her black high-tops in her “driver’s license” and “deja vu” music videos. Camilla Cabello walks around in white tops in her “Señorita” music video. Ariana Grande usually prefers heels these days, but in the video for “Baby I” from 2013, she struts around in purple Chucks. Chuck Taylors are a way to show the world that you’re a bit punk, totally laid back, or just plain fun and playful.
It’s impossible to say where music and fashion will go in the next 10 years, but it’s a safe bet that the next generation of artists worth knowing will reach for the shoe that has symbolized understated cool since before they were born.
Head over to Converse to copy your pair and don’t forget to use Klarna!