So what if they have a shorter shelf-life than a goldfish? Converse Chuck Taylor’s are the kind of everyday wardrobe staple that instantly ups anyone’s off-duty street style. No wonder everyone from WalMart to Tory Burch has angled for a piece of that casual canvas market with their own Chuck-esque footwear.
On Tuesday, Converse’s parent company Nike Inc. fired a warning shot against 31 companies whose designs potentially skirt the border of copyright infringement. On notice: Sketchers, Ralph Lauren and Ed Hardy, along with two Canadian brands, Aldo and Edamame Kids.
The suit, filed in Brooklyn (because that’s just how cool Chucks are), specifically calls for a jury trial against one of its biggest targets: Kmart. Converse will be challenged to prove the rubber toe and black-striped sole, which the brand first pioneered in 1917, is so closely associated with Converse that Kmart shoppers could think they are buying Converse branded shoes and not the off-brand alternative.
Converse’s first shoe, the All Star, was designed for basketball players way back when it was considered avant garde to throw the ball into a hoop instead of a peach basket. Basketball star Chuck Taylor’s endorsement gave the style its enduring name. It went on to become a pop culture staple worn by John Travolta in Grease and Sylvester Stallone in Rocky, and they were key to Kurt Cobain’s era-defining grunge uniform.
A pair of Converse high-tops may go for as little as $65 at The Bay, but the brand made up 6% of Nike’s business last year: a whopping $1.7 billion.