If there's one enduring fashion accessory in the music world, it's the Converse Chuck Taylors (black leather jacket is a close second). Real talk: I'm wearing a beat-up pair of white low-tops right now, sock-less, and they really stink. Blaring in my headphones is Nirvana's "Serve the Servants," and Mr. Kurt Cobain was known to rock a pair from time to time, too. From the Ramones to the Strokes, Ice Cube to Snoop Dogg (to nerdy music journalists with no socks), the canvas shoe has transcended genres, decades and tax brackets.
But how and why did a simple, cheap shoe that was once designed for the basketball court end up on an entirely different stage? SPIN's David Marchese found out. In "Chucks & Bucks: An Oral History of the Coolest Shoes on Earth," featured in SPIN's September/October issue, Marchese chats with the movers, shakers and icons of the shoe, including former Converse execs and longtime Chuck lovers like the Strokes' Albert Hammond Jr., members of the Ramones, Damon Dash and tons of others. Below are my five favorite quotes from the story, so read those, then check out the full read.
Ice Cube: Growing up in Compton [Los Angeles] in the '80s, I started wearing Chuck Taylors by watching my older brothers, my friends, my uncles. All the gangbangers wore Chuck Taylors. They were what they made you wear in the prisons and Youth Authority camps. You'd see all these gangsters going to the surplus stores and buying Chuck Taylors because they looked good with a pair of khaki pants and a T-shirt. You could spend $60 and look fresh.
Damon Dash: When I see someone wearing Chuck Taylors, I feel like I'm seeing someone who isn't that cool but wants someone else to think they are. Shell toes are the real fly sh-t.
Albert Hammond Jr. of the Strokes: [The Strokes] were pretty conscious of wanting to look a certain way. We wanted people to recognize us as being in a band when we walked down the street, even if they didn't know which band we were. Chuck Taylors signaled that... Actually, the bigger reason I got into Chucks was that I met this girl in a bar and my pickup line was that I was a filmmaker and I wanted to film her. So I spent all the next day filming this beautiful girl, and she told me I'd look good in a pair of red Chuck Taylors. I immediately went and bought some.
Cheetah Chrome of the Dead Boys: It's funny, back then you'd see guys playing basketball in 'em all the time, and we weren't necessarily the biggest fans of jocks. The only running we did in Chuck Taylors was from the cops.
Mark Arm of Mudhoney: Everyone in Seattle — Eddie Vedder, Kurt — we were all punk and hardcore fans. So it wasn't really an aesthetic choice to wear Chuck Taylors; it's just kind of what you did. The reason, I think, we wore them is that it was either those or Doc Martens, and if you wore Doc Martens and jumped into the crowd, you could really hurt someone... You know, when I heard Converse was going bankrupt, I went out and bought a couple boxes of Chuck Taylors because I thought I wouldn't be able to get them anymore.