At a lavish dinner at South Yarra’s newly minted two-hatter Matilda last week, purveyors of very traditional sneakers Converse hosted a dinner attended by media and influencers alike, in aid of celebrating their Chuck 70 range, which sees the return of one of their more iconic styles of shoe from a staggering 110-year back catalogue. The dimly lit restaurant, which earned industry stripes for its use of woodfire heat exclusively, put on a veritable spread of delights while diners viewed the new range, learned about what sets Chuck 70 apart from the rest, and got a chance to try a pair for the first time.
Split between two tables in a Westside-Story-esque set up which saw a flock of glamorous, sequined and spray-tanned Instagram models on one side of the room, and a bevy of journalists and fashion writers on the other, dishes reflecting native ingredients and fresh flavours kept arriving, as lashings of natural Pinot Noir and Riesling flowed liberally.
The shoes themselves proved just as popular as the Kangaroo Tartare; though aesthetically similar to the Chucks most of us know and love, a few key details make them near-identical to the Converse of the 1970s, a time when they were above all else the number one choice for basketball players, as the popularity of the sport soared in the US, and abroad.
Thicker, higher quality canvas tops provide more rigidity than your average pair of fabric sneakers, while a thicker mid-sole houses a thicker insole, providing much greater cushioning than your standard pair of Cons.
Then there’s the visual differences that, though slight, help to set the Chuck 70 apart from its many stablemates. The thicker mid-sole is evident upon slightly closer inspection, as is the black “license plate” at the rear of the heel, bearing Chuck Taylor’s signature (this is normally in white, and simply reads “All Star”). Another nice touch is the printed panel on the inside of the right tongue; at a time when literally every player wore a pair of these, and most were the same size, nameplates were printed inside the right shoe so that players could tie their pair together when they came off the court and leave them in the changerooms without fear of mixing them up and losing their beloved Chucks.
Small details like this help set Converse apart and act as a reminder that this is indeed a brand that has a rich history and heritage, and one of which it is proud.
Perhaps most excitingly on the night, however, was the six pairs of Virgil Abloh’s Off-White collaboration Chuck 70s which were ostensibly raffled at random, as part of a lottery held earlier in the week. The coveted shoes were available for sale to approximately three per cent of entrants in an international lottery, which had taken place on the Monday before the salubrious dinner.
Six pairs were, as a surprise halfway through the night, handed over to six of the forty-odd guests present, after a raffle which had been pre-drawn “…under the supervision of an official from the Victorian Government” earlier on. The six incredibly glamorous and popular influencers who just so happened to win said raffle were visibly thrilled with their completely randomly selected prize of the Virgil Abloh trainers.
Potential purchasers had to be “chosen” at random before they were invited to purchase a pair of the shoes, which, though only selling for AUD$180 to the small section of the public who were, and again I can’t stress this enough, randomly selected, are already up on eBay for a nudge north of AUD$500. This is expected to rise, as the limited editions will in time become rarer and rarer.
One might think that there’s not much you can do with the humble Chuck Taylor sneaker: it’s been a stalwart item in just about every person’s shoe cupboard for decades, whether you’re a daily wearer of the iconic trainer or only pull them out once, for gym day on the second of January, each year.
But the Chuck 70 is different. The insole is incredibly comfortable, far more so than most other vintage-styled shoes. The thicker canvas tops too not only look great, but add to the overall comfort of the shoe, making, in essence, an improved Chuck for everyday wear. And there’s always something about a fresh pair of Chucks that feels universally cool. It’s the everyman’s sneaker, from kids playing basketball in the mean streets of Chicago to Hollywood actros, and Wall St CEOs: everybody has, at some point, inevitably owned a pair.
Now available online and in stores, the Chuck 70 might just be your new favourite pair of Converse.
Man of Many travelled to Melbourne as a guest of Converse.