Oh, Chucks. You've been around for as long as I can remember. Every generation seems to discover you, change you around a little bit, and put you back on the shelf for someone else to discover down the line a a few years later. Other shoes–high tech, high style–will come and go, but there's always a place on someone's feet for Chuck Taylors.
Of course, they're really Converse All-Stars. What people call them seems to be a regional thing and a generational thing. The high schoolers of 2015 seem to lean towards "Converse," but in the '90s it was "Chucks." In the '30s it was probably just "basketball shoes," because they were the only ones out there.
In The Beginning
Walking down the street now, probably eight out of ten people you see will be wearing some kind of athletic shoe. Even the most conservative of businesses does a "casual Friday," so the need for business dress shoes isn't what it used to be. And it's become more acceptable to wear athletic shoes to almost any event. Not so in 1917, when the Converse Rubber Shoe Company first marketed All-Star Basketball Shoes. Ever wonder why tennis courts have a "no street shoes" rule posted? Believe it or not, there was a time when people really would play tennis in shoes that we would think of now as dress shoes. In the 1910s almost no one had ever heard of a shoe made especially for athletic use. The Chuck Taylor connection came in 1921, when the star basketball player came into the Converse offices complaining of sore feet. The company gave him a job, and he endorsed the shoes. The signature on the ankle of your Converse high tops belongs to a guy who was famous nearly a century ago.
Converse more or less had a monopoly on athletic shoes until the '70s. The Chuck Taylor All-Stars, high and low top versions, were still effectively the only all-purpose athletic shoe on the mass market. By the '70s, though, things were changing. More people became more active. Everyday clothing became more casual. It became acceptable to wear "tennis shoes" (even if they weren't really tennis shoes) to school and work.
It was around this time that good ol' Chucks faded out of the limelight as a serious athletic shoe. People had become interested in running and jogging, and the Converse shoes just didn't provide the kind of support needed. Adidas and Puma suddenly became "the" shoe to have. (Who remembers the "fishhead" shaped running shoes?) A few years later Nike burst on the scene with more high-tech basketball shoes. Chucks went to the back of the shelf. They were just too old-fashioned. They were a lot cheaper than the trendy shoes, though, so they still had a good audience.
From High Tech to High Style
Probably, no one ever thought of the Converse shoes as high-tech. People didn't think along those lines in 1921. They were just shoes that were more practical for basketball. When newer designs offering better sports results came along, they stopped being a practical choice for an athlete. Still, they had some things going for them: they were comfortable and looked cool–AND
they didn't break your budget. New designs came out in the '90s–bizarre colors, super high tops that could fold down. Chucks entered skateboard culture and the college scene.
Like all trends, the old standby All-Stars faded out of style for a few years, but have been "in" again for a couple of years now. No matter what brand and model I pick for sports, I'm never without a pair of Chucks just to hang out in. They're a style that is never out of style–and you know what? They're just darned comfortable.