1908–1941: Early days

In his late 30s, Marquis Mills Converse, who was previously a respected manager at a footwear manufacturing firm, opened the Converse Rubber Shoe Company (unrelated to the Boston Rubber Shoe Company founded by fourth cousin Elisha Converse) in Malden, Massachusetts in February 1908. The company was a rubber shoe manufacturer, providing winterized rubber soled footwear for men, women, and children. By 1910, Converse was producing 4,000 shoes daily, but it was not until 1915 that the company began manufacturing athletic shoes for tennis.

The company’s main turning point came in 1917 when the Converse All-Star basketball shoe was introduced. Then in 1921, a basketball player named Charles H. “Chuck” Taylor walked into Converse complaining of sore feet. Converse gave him a job. He worked as a salesman and ambassador, promoting the shoes around the United States, and in 1923 his signature was added to the All Star patch. He continued this work until shortly before his death in 1969.

 

1941–present: War, bankruptcy, and new management

When the U.S. entered World War II in 1941, Converse shifted production to manufacturing rubberized footwear, outerwear, and protective suits for the military. Widely popular during the 1950s and 1960s, Converse promoted a distinctly American image with its Converse Yearbook. Artist Charles Kerins created cover art that celebrated Converse’s role in the lives of high school and college athletes.

 

Through its shoes, Converse developed into an iconic brand, and came to be seen as the essential sports shoe. In the 1970s, Converse purchased the trademark rights to Jack Purcell sneakers from B.F. Goodrich.

Converse lost much of its apparent near-monopoly from the 1970s onward, with the surge of new competitors, including Puma and Adidas, then Nike, then a decade later Reebok, who introduced radical new designs to the market. Converse found themselves no longer the official shoe of the National Basketball Association, a title they had relished for many years. While being employed at Converse, one of its employees (Jim Labadini {1968-78}), created the chevron and star insignia / logo that still remains on most of the footwear items.

The loss of market share, combined with poor business decisions, forced Converse to file for bankruptcy on January 22, 2001. In April 2001, Footwear Acquisitions, led by Mardsen Cason and Bill Simon, purchased the brand from bankruptcy and added industry partners Jack Boys, Jim Stroesser, Lisa Kempa, and David Maddocks to lead the turnaround of America’s Original Sports Company.

The new team drove Converse from the 16th largest footwear company to number 7 in less than 2 1/2 years, leading to a buyout by rival Nike on July 9, 2003 for $305 million, qualifying as the merger and acquisition of the year in 2003.After Converse was bought by Nike, operations were moved from the United States to overseas.

Current NBA players wearing Converse include Kyle Korver, Maurice Evans, Udonis Haslem, Elton Brand, Louis Williams, Larry Sanders, Luke Harangody, Chris Andersen, and JJ Barea. “Big Baby” Glen Davis has worn Converse mainly for away games for 2011-2012, while also wearing Nike for some home games. Kirk Hinrich was a former endorser who switched to Nike for 2011-2012.

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