How Converse All Stars are Made: Vulcanized Process
The Converse All Star Double Wrap Style Vulcanized Outsole
Do you want to know how Converse All Star shoes are made? The Converse All Star, the Jack Purcell, and other Converse classics are made using the vulcanized shoemaking process.
The Birth of the Chuck Taylor All Star
Marquis Mills Converse opened the Converse Rubber Shoe Company in Malden, Massachusetts in 1908. The company was a rubber shoe manufacturer, making vulcanized rubber soled footwear for men, women, and children. In 1915, the company began manufacturing vulcanized athletic shoes for tennis and other sports.
In 1917, the Converse All-Star basketball shoe was introduced. Then, in 1921, a basketball player named Charles H. “Chuck” Taylor became a salesman and ambassador promoting these shoes around the United States. In 1932, Taylor’s signature was added to the All-Star patch. From then on, the All-Star also became known as “Chuck Taylor’s” or just “Chucks”.
“vulcanize: The process of heating raw rubber to cure it. This process creates cross linking inside the rubber compounds bonding it together. Before the rubber is vulcanized it is stretchable, gummy, and very easy to tear. After being vulcanized the rubber is very tough, stretchable, and ready to wear.”
How the Converse All Star is Made
In the Converse vulcanized shoemaking process, the soft white rubber shoe outsole parts are attached to the shoe upper before the rubber is heat cured. With the sole parts attached, the entire shoe must be heated in a vulcanizing oven. The shoe is heated to around 170˚C – that is over 300˚F! The heat required to vulcanize the rubber sole can melt nylon and polyester fabrics.
Raw materials of Converse shoes
What is the Converse all star made of? Converse All Stars must be made of heat-resistant materials like suede, leather, and cotton canvas with metal hardware. This limits the material choices for the Converse footwear designers so they need to be creative. The Converse materials are key to the classic look of the style.
Converse All Stars Assembly
The Converse All Star is a double wrap shoe. The first operation is the bonding and trimming of the toe cap part. The upper then receives a pre-wrap before the rubber outsole is attached. The pre-wrap is a thin layer of rubber, tall enough to cover the upper, which wraps down around the bottom edge of the upper. After the pre-wrap and outsole are bonded and the outer wrap is applied, the final operation attaches the textured toe foxing tape and rear “license plate” heel logo part. These parts cover the seams of the outer wrap.
Vulcanize Factory Equipment
The vulcanized shoemaking process must be done in a specific factory equipped with many special machines. The shoemaking equipment required for vulcanizing is very different from the equipment needed to make cold cement shoes. A shoe factory will usually specialize in one process or the other, you will rarely find both vulcanized and cold cement processes inside the same factory.
The upper stitching and construction of a Converse vulcanized shoe are nearly the same as a cold cement shoe. The inside reinforcements for the toe and heel counters are made of thin rubber sheets instead of plastic. Again, due to the high temperature required for the vulcanized rubber, any kind of plastic or PVC logos or trim treatments must be avoided when designing a vulcanized shoe. The lining of Converse shoes is also made from lightweight cotton canvas.
While the uppers are being stitched, the rubber components for the vulcanized sole unit must be prepared. The rubber components for vulcanized shoes have a shelf life of only a few days. If the rubber parts are made and set aside the rubber will begin to oxidize, partially cure, and not cure properly when the shoes are being vulcanized.
How much does it cost Converse to make a pair of All Stars?
The Converse All Start retails from between $39.99 to $79.99. The low cut style is about $8.00 dollars to produce, $2.00 to ship and has an import duty of 12.5%.
This factory makes shoes the same way Converse makes the All Star
Want to learn more about how vulcanized shoes are made? Check out Chapter 12 in the book How Shoes are Made.