By now you’ve probably heard that last week, Converse began the next phase in its 107-year history when it unveiled the Chuck Taylor All Star II. I was one of over 100 journalists from around the globe who were invited to lớn Boston—site of Converse’s impressive global headquarters—for the introduction of what the shoe company was calling its most important sản phẩm launch ever.

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That’s not hyperbole. Converse rented out a cavernous warehouse for the launch event, và President and CEO, Jim Calhoun, Vice President và General Manager of Converse All Star, Richard Copcutt, & Bryan Cioffi, Vice President and Creative Director of Global Footwear, were all on hand lớn address the media. Clearly, the company has a lot riding on this.

The Chuck Taylor is arguably the most iconic sneaker in the world, undergoing an unprecedented evolution in the cultural landscape since its debut in 1917. A popular basketball shoe for much of the 20th Century, somewhere along the way the Chuck became a signifier of a certain kind of cool, coveted by rockers, skaters, rappers, và anyone with a rebellious spirit. Messing with such an iconic sản phẩm represented a huge risk for Converse, a fact that was emphasized by the extensive market research that was done before creating the Chuck II.

Copcutt, who told us that he got married in his Chucks, said the company spoke lớn “actors, dancers, chefs, designer, graphic artists, graffiti artists, screenwriters, butchers, bakers,” searching for feedback on the sneaker’s role in their day-to-day lives. In the end, their mandate became not necessarily lớn upgrade the shoe’s look—which they managed lớn do, albeit subtly—but instead, to lớn concentrate on how the shoe feels once you put it on. For all its culture cache, the Chuck has never been the most comfortable shoe khổng lồ wear, which the brand acknowledged. With the Chuck II, that’s changed.

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After the presentation, which ended with Cioffi detailing the extensive upgrades his team made to the Chuck, every journalist was given their own pair of high tops ahead of the shoe’s July 28 on-sale date. I was curious if Converse would be able khổng lồ justify consumers paying more—$70 for low tops and $75 for high tops—for shoes that look almost identical lớn their predecessors to the naked eye, và whose low price tags have always been one of their biggest selling points. Unless you try them on, they probably can’t. But that’s the thing: Once you try them on, it becomes almost instantly clear that with the Chuck II, Converse has accomplished its mission.

I’ve been wearing the Chuck II for three days now—riding my bike in them, walking across new york City in them, writing this article in them. The entire time I"ve been wearing them, I"m surprisingly conscious of the improvements that Cioffi detailed in his presentation. The foam-padded collar và memory foam-padded tongue, the perforated micro-suede lining, & the premium canvas didn’t mean much to lớn me when he laid them all out, but when you wear the shoe, the materials are noticeable. They add up lớn a shoe that feels more fortified, substantial, và intricate.

But lượt thích Cioffi said, that wasn’t enough. The Chuck II needed what he referred to as a "game changer." I was skeptical when Cioffi said those words, thinking that after he spent 20 minutes detailing the Chuck II’s features, there was no way there was still room for a so-called trò chơi changer. But to lớn ensure they got what they were after, Converse reached out lớn their parent company, Nike, which has owned the brand since 2003. Basically the NASA of sneaker technology, Nike created a Lunarlon sockliner for the Chuck II that was meant to solve the original Chucks" problem of hurting the soles và heels of your feet after extensive wear. Basically, you can now wear a Chuck with a foamy cushion for your feet, & it makes all the difference.

All of this adds up to lớn an uncanny sensation of familiarity mixed with estrangement. When you look down at your feet, you see what looks like a classic Chuck. Yes, the iconic patch is embroidered now instead of painted on, và the overall look is more streamlined, but it’s still instantly recognizable as a Chuck Taylor, which was always Converse’s intention. But it doesn’t feel lượt thích a Chuck Taylor—also Converse’s intention. In that sense, they’ve accomplished what they set out lớn do.