As a fan of both Bruce Springsteen and the mighty Jack Purcell, I used to feel that Converse has always been the one brand that didn’t seem to need any payola or seeded endorsement. Motherfuck an ‘influencer’ whose sole claim to fame is a prolific WordPress habit – Converse was worn by some true legends. The don’t-give-a-fuck shoe for those who secretly do. A lot. I never fully understood the need to labour the point for the brand’s centenary. A few candid or onstage images was all that was needed in lieu of any art directed, megabucks campaigns. Other brands might need to labour-the-point, but it was a little moot for the All Star.
Springsteen is one of the core reasons I truly fell for the Jack Purcell, via the Eric Meola shot promo images for ‘Born To Run’. I guess his anti-sponsorship stance wrote Springsteen out the ad campaign running. Whether the humble Converse shoe was part of the working class schtick is open to debate. Maybe it was a wilful throwback to the bombastic rock n’ roll of the ’50s and early ’60s – an everyman prop amid a costly ego-fuelled realm of platform footwear vulgarities. I don’t recall him actually wearing the Purcell – the image of Bruce guitar-riffed into my psyche wears leather footwear.
Looking back at the shoe’s prominance in Sony’s marketing campaign for ‘Born To Run’, after the slow burn of Bruce’s early work, the compressed epic sound of this album was highly anticipated, and a fair amount of money seemed to be spent on photography, with a little set aside for some some nifty little promo nik-naks – many based around those Converse shoes, including a badge and tiny metal keyring (both using the rare ‘graffiti font’ lettering for the LP). Recently, we at Crooked had an interesting chat with Mr Andrew Bunney surrounding the All Star’s status in the UK.
We pondered as to how many icons from these shores were wearing the real thing back in the day. Or were knockoffs immediately associated with Converse? In the design’s pre-Chuck signature days, the All Star wasn’t too dissimilar to rival (and equally pioneering) basketball designs from the likes of Keds, and throughout its lifetime, it’s not been the only rubber-toed canvas design in that vein. Is Sid wearing the real thing, or did he grab a pair of cheap and cheerful baseball boots and spend the rest on gear of the other kind? Growing up, Levi’s baseball boots and fold-down vulcanized Hi-Tec ‘homages’ were epidemic at my middle school. Round my way, Converses weren’t especially cheap or ubiquitous on the high streets, and I’m reliably informed that in Britain the previous decade, a canvas lookalike would be an easier find – ones that could easily have passed for All Stars without close inspection.
That’s one thing, but on looking at outtakes from Eric’s ‘Jack Purcell’ guitar shot, taken in June 1975, closer inspection reveals an ‘imposter’ as part of the mismatched pair. I’d clocked that there was, what seemed to be an All Star low behind that Purcell a long time ago, but it transpires that the rear shoe carried 3-Stripes. While the full rubber toe isn’t like that of the adidas Nizza as we currently know it, having peeped some early Nizza examples, there were some fuller rubber toed versions in the shoe’s early days. I’m open to correction though. I like adidas’s take on the canvas shoe craze a lot, but I can’t help but feel a little bit cheated by this discovery.
I appreciate that I’m probably alone in this opinion.