The new Chuck Taylors are here. The first new design in 98 years. I'm wearing them right now.
These absurdly, blindingly white objects are shoes. More precisely, they're the much-hyped Converse Chuck IIs, which were released on Tuesday. By the end of that first day on sale, these lowtops were the last pair of size 11 shoes left at the company's Manhattan flagship store. I snagged 'em.
The store had seen a rush on the newly redesigned shoes that day. The sales associate just shook his head when I handed him the popular standard-issue black hightop model. "Try online," he suggested. I told him I would take any pair of the coveted new All Stars that they had in my size.
Usually when there is a rush for shoes, it's caused by a bunch of sneaker nerds lining up to get some special edition. In this case, it was more like people lining up for iPhones. This shoe will be mass-produced. There will be more next week, and the week after that, and assuming people keep buying them, there will be Chuck IIs for a hundred years, which is about how long ago the originals were released.
The Converse flagship store in SoHo, New York was almost completely sold out of Chuck IIs in my size on the day the sneakers were released.
But I think I understand why there was a rush on the new Chucks, even by unfashionable schlubs like me. Besides Jordans, it's hard to imagine a shoe more iconic and beloved than the Chuck Taylor. I remember when I finally convinced my dad to let me get a pair in middle school, even over his objections that they were crap shoes that were going to mess up my feet. I've gone through a pair or two per year ever since.
I never found the shoes as painfully uncomfortable as some people, but their hundred-year-old design isn't especially ergonomic. People are psyched about the new Chuck II because it retains much of the classic Converse look -- I actually think they're kind of hotter now -- while introducing new design features that make them legitimately comfortable.
The new Chuck II on the left, the old-school Chuck Taylor on the right. You can see many of the aesthetic changes in the sweet comparison video shot by my colleague Michael Hession. Converse sent us black hightops, but they were a size 9 which is unfortunately way, way too small for me.
How do they feel on the foot?
After spending a day in my new bright shining kicks, I can tell you for sure, they're more comfortable. They feel like real shoes now, instead of like shoddy canvas sacks for feet.
At the core of the design is a new foamy insole made of Lunarlon, a springy foam material designed by Converse's parent, Nike. Don't let the marketing term fool you though, this is just a comfy insole. It feels much like one you would buy to put into your running shoes. In this case it's nice to have it specially shaped and designed for the shoe itself.
Besides the insole, the biggest change is the no-slip tongue, which indeed does not slip. It's a huge change for the Chuck Taylor. The old tongue that wiggles its way to the side over time is so common that it's central to the Chuck Taylor aesthetic.
There are some aspects of the sneaker's redesign that we'll have to wait and see on. The Chuck IIs use some tougher-looking (and feeling) rubber construction of the rubber sole as well as the rubber that binds the sole to the rest of the shoe. This tends to be where the old-school chucks fall apart over time.
Additionally, the new chucks use a tougher canvas, which makes the overall shoe feel sturdy like it's got real structure that supports your ankles, rather than serving as just a flimsy coat that's draped over your feet.
Will the new Chuck be more durable, or suffer the same fate of its flimsy predecessor? Is it even a Chuck Taylor if it doesn't turn to crap over time?
A pair of hightop Chuck IIs cost $90-$120 in Australia. It's worth it.