So Cool They’re Hot, and Hard to Find

high and low top chucks
Maybe someday the Converse company will make enough chucks for everyone!


Some days this past year, Duncan Cole would have walked a mile for a Converse. Customers came into Sam’s Clothing, his downtown Ann Arbor store, looking for Converse sneakers — particularly the Chuck Taylor hightops — but Cole couldn’t always deliver the goods. He couldn’t get enough sneakers from the company. Production wasn’t keeping up with demand, said the local distributor.

“We were low on a lot of products,” says Cole. “We sell a lot of Converse and have a large inventory, but it takes a lot because sometimes people come in here expecting to buy four pairs.”

To make things worse, Cole needed to place orders three, six and nine months in advance — not knowing exactly what he’d get. Converse shoes are one of his specialties, so Cole likes to order several pairs of everything available. That means lowtop and hightop sneakers, in black, white, off-white and 15 other colors, including orange. “Orange has been extremely popular,” says Cole, whose father opened Sam’s in 1946.

Made since 1918, Converse sneakers have been classics for a long time, but according to company spokeswoman Kelly Buckley, their popularity peaks occasionally. “Kids now are looking for something low-tech, a classic shoe they can wear with blue jeans that doesn’t cost $150.”

Overseas, particularly in Japan, Converse hightops are hot. “Demand has been incredible,” says Buckley. In December, Japanese buyers plunked down about $43 per pair, but changes in the value of the yen have lowered the average price to $37. Domestically, prices average $33, and demand remains strong around the world, says Buckley.

In response, the company has increased production lines and factory hours. Currently, the company kicks out 35,000 pairs of sneakers per day at its Lumberton, N.C., factory. About half, says Buckley, go overseas.

Placing orders has gotten easier, says Cole, but he’d still like more Converse sneakers. “We’ve had to buy a lot of shoes just to catch up.”

By Catherine O’Donnell
Staff Reporter
from the Ann Arbor Michigan News
Wednesday, April 8, 1998

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