The Holy Trinity of Nike Design Made a New Shoe—for Converse
Nike bought Converse back in 2003, but this week is the first time that Nike really owned a pair of Chuck Taylors.
Converse just launched the All Star Modern sneaker collection, and it includes a limited-edition shoe called the All Star Modern HTM. If you’re not into shoes, that name might not mean much. For the uninitiated: The “HTM” stands for Hiroshi Fujiwara, Tinker Hatfield, and Mark Parker, three designers who define Nike. Parker is the CEO, Hatfield is VP of design (responsible for the Air Max 1 and generations of Air Jordans), and Fujiwara is a longtime collaborator who’s been influencing streetwear design for three decades. The All Star Modern HTM is the first shoe they’ve designed without a swoosh. Forget sneakers—if you care about Nike’s cultural impact over the past few decades, you care about HTM.
Nike’s elite design trio has been responsible for some of the company’s most high-tech and expensive shoes, from the sleek Flyknit Mercurial to the rare Kobe 9 Premium “HTM,” which Flight Club sells for $3,000. Historically, Converse has been neither high-tech, nor expensive. The original 1920 Chuck Taylor and its descendants are actually pretty heavy; the All Star Modern “is probably one of the lightest shoes I’ve ever held in my life,” says Allison Halfhill, co-founder of the sneaker news site Nice Kicks. That’s due to the three layer composite upper, which is fused instead of sewn, thermoplastic polyurethane toecap, neoprene split tongue—all featherlight materials found commonly on Nike kicks. For an added premium feel, the HTM wraps the upper in goat leather.
All that technology means a price tag that’ll have Converse purists rolling their eyes. A standard pair of Chucks goes for $55; the Modern line starts at $130 and tops out at $180 for the HTM editions. But anyone paying attention would’ve seen that coming. Last year, Converse redesigned the All Star for the first time since its 1917 debut. The Chuck II has springy Nike Lunarlon foam in the sole, for arch support, and costs $80. Converse devotees didn’t buy it, but everyone else did: “The incredible thing about the Chuck II is that it was the first Chuck Taylor that sold out,” Halfhill says. In Los Angeles, she says, “there were months where you would go to any boutique or Foot Locker and you couldn’t find them.”
Converse (and Nike) aren’t going to argue with success. The sneakerheads who stood in line for Jordans have jobs and kids now, they figure. They go to brunch. A pared down, heritage court shoe like Common Projects on the high end, Veja, Greats, and Adidas’s Stan Smiths on the lower end hits that crowd. “Nike is bridging a gap that isn’t currently met in the market,” says Sean Damian Tucker, brand director at Flight Club.
Of course, with HTM involved, the new Chuck Taylor gets some grace notes. Halfhill says the most distinguishing detail on the HTM shoe is the pull heel tab, with its embossed HTM logo. It’s kind of like the gold style number and shoe size that Common Projects puts on its shoes, a wink to sneaker aesthetes in the know. “By having that co-sign, people will automatically pay attention to it,” Halfhill says. “If they didn’t have that, it would have flown so low under the radar.” It’s a fitting Converse-Nike hybrid: sensibly minimal, but packed with big-brand panache.