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The Day Nike Took Over the World:  Counter-Culture for Sale!

So the selling price on a large chunk of Americana is 305 million dollars?  That was the price Nike paid to buy Converse.  Nike didn't just buy shoes, they bought years and years of history.  The infamous "Chuck Taylor" sneakers have been around for decades.  Although they were never intended to become the official shoe of the counter-culture, they did so, anyway. 

The rebels without a cause wore them back in the 50s.  It was a white T-shirt, with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in one sleeve, a leather jacket slung over the shoulder, a nice motorcycle and a pair of Converse All Stars.  In the sixties, the hippies took the shoes over.  The multi-colored splendor was a blast, to them.  They usually wore a different colored Converse on each foot.  For a while, the Converse All Star shoe became a groovy enhancement to the numerous acid trips taken by stinky people with no bras.  Finally, in the 70s, when the fabulous Ramones introduced "Punk Rock" to the world -- and reintroduced Converse All Stars -- the brand of shoe became the official footwear of the punk generation.  Punkers made the footwear their own, and they have kept them on their feet for nearly three decades (imagine the smell). 

There was a really scary time during the late 80s when pop-metal bands tried to steal the Converse idea from the punks.  Twisted Sister's Dee Snider wore a pair of pink Chuck Taylor's in the embarrassingly pathetic "Hot Love" video.  The video flopped, the record ("Love is For Suckers") bombed, and Dee most likely never put on a pair of Converse again.  At least not the pink kind.  You see, headbangers were generally a confused lot, back in the day.  They damned Dee as a "faggot" for wearing pink shoes, even though they worshipped him in full mascara mode, a couple of years earlier.  

After metal turned into grunge, and all of those greasy grunge people wore Converse All Stars out in a way that only a basketball player with acne's foot could, the shoes became hugely trendy. Every dork wishing to be Kurt Cobain had the sneakers, along with that stupid chain thingie that hung from their belt to their wallet.  It was at that time that I almost felt trendy wearing the shoes, but I kept them on, nonetheless, because you don't get better than a canvas Converse.

During the last couple of years, the "nu-metal" bands have tied the shoes onto their feet.  It's frightening to watch Headbanger's Ball on MTV 2.  Almost all of those guttural growling people are wearing my favorite shoes.  They scream and grown and sound sort of like they're constipated, and then the camera pans down to reveal that they're wearing Converse.  Is it just me, or does the new Ball suck harder than the last one?  I didn't think it was possible, but it seems to be out-sucking one of the suckiest suckfests on MTV.  I'd rather watch Dee in his pink Chuck Taylor's, singing about "Hot Love," than hear these crunchy guitars and Cookie Monster vocals that sound exactly the same from song to song and band to band.

But now none of us can feel "rebellious."  Even people trying to sound like Cookie Monster.  The footwear of the counter-culture was bought out by one of the meanest, richest, greediest, lowly corporations in the business.  Nike.  Yikes.  Have these freaks EVER made a shoe in the United States?  I sincerely doubt it.  So, I have the Converse I have, and that's the entire collection of Converse that I'll ever be blessed with.  Never, ever, not in a million years, will I buy a Nike product.  Never have.  Never will.  Even if said product is a Converse All Star.

I bought my first pair of red Converse way back in 1988.  Yes, I was a young punk teenager at the time, and I was desperately trying to clone the Ramones (only two years later, I bought my first leather jacket).  But it felt right.  Maybe I was imitating something to make myself feel original, but the shoes bloody fit.  And if the shoe fucking fits, wear it.  What teenager doesn't try to emulate their heroes (see the Cobain clones)? 

Then I grew up (sort of), but I never grew out of Converse All Stars.  I went through almost every color of the rainbow (not that I have any idea what the colors in a rainbow are).  Red, black, blue, green, light blue, white.  I never did buy a pink pair, because I didn't want that Dee Snider curse. 

I even tried to end my virginity in my Chuck Taylor shoes.  My lover noticed two things before we "did it."  The first thing she noticed was my throbbing erection.  That pleased her (probably because it was throbbing.  And it was an erection.).  The second thing she noticed was that I was still wearing my Converse All Stars.  She didn't approve.  She let me know that "none shall pass," unless they take off their shoes.  I was disappointed, but, to make up for it, I kept a Yoda doll, with a homemade "All Star" sticker placed upon his forehead, on the bed stand the entire time that we thrived on instinct, like a couple of whores.  The Force was with me, that night ... and so was Chuck.

I did get away with wearing my Chuck's to a wedding, where I was the best man.  I took my black pair of Converse and spray-painted some black crap over the beautiful blue star, and had Converse on, along with my tux, as I presented the coveted ring.  A few people noticed, but I didn't give a damn.  These were the shoes that I was planning on wearing for a lifetime, and nothing, outside of some quick snatch in the sack, was gonna get them off of me.

Nothing, that is, outside of Nike.  The shoes in the picture above are my "fire" Converse.  They were the last pair I purchased, about 10 months ago.  They will be the last new pair of Converse I ever own.  I know it sounds trite, but it's hard for me to face the fact that my Converse days are almost over.  I can make the few pairs I have left last a couple more years, but then it's onto some other brand of shoe.  I haven't even picked what brand I will be wearing.  But I know that I would rather screw a rabid sheep than support the goofballs at Nike. 

Nike is now the proud owner of the Chuck Taylor sneakers that have been worn on the feet of discriminating counter-culture freaks for nearly a century.  Nike now plans to market these infamous shoes in revolutionary stores such as "Target" and "Wal-Mart."  If they get really bold, maybe they'll even put them up for sale at "K-Mart."  I'm sure the price will be jacked up from $35.00 to around $150.00.  Of course the price will be "justified," due to the shoes being "special edition" Converse All Stars, with glowing crap in the back, and Michael Jordan's name plastered all over the canvas.  Maybe they'll make Chuck Taylor golfing shoes, with Tiger Woods' face in place of the famous star. 

Converse has always been synonymous with rebellion.  Converse has always belonged to the counter-culture (it's ironic they were actually meant to be athletic shoes).  I'm sure some overpaid dildo will invent an ad featuring every punk band wearing the shoes, with a tagline reading something like, "Be punk.  Be Converse.  Be Independent."  I'm sure the little shits in the world will fall for it.  I never will.  When you corporate whores turn Converse into the next "Guess," guess what?  Those of us in the know won't be buying. 

Rest in Peace, Converse.  And remember, Nike -- paying people in foreign countries twenty-five cents an hour isn't punk.  You're not punk, Nike.  You're not metal.  You're not anything.  Get a life and live it, losers.

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Email me at alex@juicycerebellum.com

Copyright 2003 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].  If you copy this, without my permission, I'll stomp you in the face with my Converse All Stars until you're a bloody pulp begging for mercy from shitty shoes such as Vans.