Detail makes all the difference. In the early 80s, Converse made a series of small changes to their iconic Chuck Taylor All Star to produce the version we’re familiar with today. The adaptations were made without compromising the design’s DNA, but to the eagle-eyed observer, no two shoes are the same. After decades of success with the revised version, Converse decided it was time to pay tribute to its progenitor and released the Chuck 70 in 2013.
The 1980s marked a period of change for the Chuck Taylor All Star. As new technology enabled Converse to produce highly engineered basketball shoes for on-court action, the Chuck stepped into a different arena. It was no longer the sporting hero it had been for decades, but remained a popular casual choice for a huge demographic that swept across all facets of culture and style. At the same time, the cost of manufacturing in the United States was rising steadily; in order to resist moving production overseas, Converse offset growing expenses by altering the classic Chuck’s recipe.
In recent years, the Chuck 70 has become a fan favourite with discerning footwear fanatics. Thanks to its beefed-up build and vintage aesthetic, the 70 became the go-to shoe for the brand’s high profile collaborators such as Virgil Abloh, Missoni and Rei Kawakubo. Now it’s the staple Chuck for a cult following of the world’s style elite. So what is it about the charismatic Chuck 70 that’s helped cement its present-day popularity? It can be hard to tell at a glance, so here’s the fine-tooth comb 411.
One of the first things you’ll notice when comparing the two is the weight of their main textile ingredient. During its long life of pounding parquet floors, the Chuck Taylor had to be tough. The sport’s aggressive lateral action caused lesser shoes to blow out in no time, but the 12oz weave seen on the Chuck 70 could take a serious beating. When it made the shift to lifestyle sneaker, the All Star lightened its load by switching to a finer canvas. To further strengthen the toe, the older style has an extra layer of canvas stitched inside, evidenced by the swooping stitch-lines on the vamp of the solid 70.
The next obvious difference comes courtesy of the Chuck 70’s midsole finish. Most notably, a layer of varnish has been applied to the midsole and toe cap in a process that gives the Chuck 70’s rubber an off-white sheen and a top quality edge. Not only is it shiny, but the siding of the Chuck 70 is a full 5mm higher to provide extra stability during explosive on-court movement, while the pinstripe around the foxing tape is a separate piece of piping seared onto the midsole, as opposed to an inset stripe. On the underside, the old-school edition features a thicker sole unit made from a single solid slab of denser rubber compound moulded with deeper dashes for better traction.
Some variances are felt more than they’re seen. The thinner canvas of the contemporary All Star doesn’t provide quite the same structure as the self-supporting bulk on the 70. To account for this, an additional plastic heel cap has been built in for stability, whereas the Chuck 70 has no need for additional structures, allowing a more dynamic fit.
One area in which the Chuck 70 has been injected with a modern touch is the ever-important cushioning. The 2013 remake is enhanced with a cushy foam insole that features built-up arch support, making this the most comfortable construction of the classic design to date.
No part of the design has been overlooked in order to recreate the Chuck 70’s authentic feel. Converse have bolted their OG licence plate to the heel to ensure that identification credentials are period correct, while nickel-plated eyelets and cotton laces keep the forefoot on point. Contrast stitching around the tongue, a glossy heel patch and a nylon-webbing heel strip provide the finishing touches on a true trip down memory lane.
Despite their uncannily similar appearance, the modern Converse Chuck Taylor All Star and the Chuck 70 are about as similar as you and your grandparents. But at the end of the day, to fully appreciate the exacting standards to which the old Chuck 70 has been built, you’ll just need to try them out. People love to say ‘they don’t make ‘em like they used to’, but Converse just proved them wrong.
The Converse Chuck 70 is available now from select retailers and direct from Converse online.