Not long after the first performance basketball shoe rolled off the Converse production line in Massachusetts in 1917, its makers cottoned on to the ability of celebrity to shift units. In 1921 basketball player Charles 'Chuck' Taylor became one of America's first player-endorsers when he was employed to drive across the States in a white Cadillac, flogging his favourite shoe from the boot of his car.
This year the brand celebrates 100 years in the shoe business and has clearly honed its instinct for using famous faces. Drawing on its rich heritage among musicians and sportsmen, its new ad campaign features a line-up of "20th-century rebels" – living and dead. Sid Vicious appears alongside Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Ian Curtis alongside basketball player Dwayne Wade, and James Dean with Joan Jett – each sporting a pair of Converse All Stars.
Converse will be rolling out a special anniversary collection throughout 2008, including modern redesigns of old Converse classics as well as plenty of new products. Highlights include a distressed leather range inspired by the Black Fives, the first professional African-American basketball team; various reworkings of tennis originals from the 1970s; and the resurrection of the 1917 All Star shoe, the Pro Leather, a fave among basketball players in the 1970s.
Converse has also got involved with Product RED to celebrate its centenary, enlisting 100 artists, including the Kaiser Chiefs, to submit designs for All Star shoes; 10 per cent of sales will go to the RED fund to fight Aids. With this kind of marketing, here's to another 100 years.
The Converse Century footwear line is available from www.converse.comReuse content