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The Blog from Oi Polloi presents: by Harry Longstaff •

Let’s not beat around the bush; the Converse All-Star is probably the most recognisable shoe on the planet. Canvas uppers… big ‘ol toe cap… rubber sole… it’s a bonafide classic that’s often imitated, and rarely bettered.

They originally came about in 1923, and were designed with help from Charles “Chuck” Taylor, a basketball player who shot literal hoops for a team known as the Converse All-Stars. With their flexible-yet-supportive nature, and loose canvas lining designed to move with sweaty socks, they soon caught on, and over the years they’ve been worn by everyone from Californian g-funk rappers to countless film characters.

With that in mind, let’s look at a few times the hallowed All-Star has cropped up at the multiplex…

SYLVESTER STALLONE, ROCKY - 1976

To start things off, here’s the Italian Stallion himself rocking a pair of All-Stars in the seminal boxing movie classic Rocky.

As you may already know, this film tells the rags to riches tale of Rocky Balboa (Stallone), an uneducated, kind-hearted, working class Italian-American boxer, vying for bloody glory in the world heavyweight championship.

What’s worth pointing out is that Stallone’s using the hallowed Chucks for jogging instead of basketball. Like previously mentioned, All-Stars were custom built to be kind to sweaty feet, so it makes sense Sly would use them for the most important training session of his life. And judging by the stains on that sweatwear, Stallone must sweat profusely.

LEONARDO DICAPRIO, THE BASKETBALL DIARIES - 1995

Probably the most famous actor on the planet wearing the planet’s most famous shoes, here’s a film that’s not that famous… The Basketball Diaries.

The Basketball Diaries is the autobiographical story of Jim Carrol (Leo) as he struggles between his dream of basketball stardom and his penchant for hard-core narcotics. As you can guess if you’ve seen any film regarding drug use, poor Jim doesn’t go on to become the next Michael Jordan.

I’ve only seen The Basketball Diaries once, and that was donkey’s years ago, but I think the moral of the story is that if you want to make it big in the game of basketball, don’t do drugs, and always wear Converse. That seems logical to deduce, right?

 

CHANG CHEN, A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY - 1991

Up next, Chang Chen in the four-hour Taiwanese masterpiece A Brighter Summer Day, directed by Edward Yang. If you ever have the misfortune of meeting me in person, chances are I won’t shut up about how ‘life-changing’ this film is.

A Brighter Summer Day takes place over four years in Taipei, charting the upbringing of Xiao Si’r (Chang Chen), his family, friends and the changing landscape of Taiwan during the 60s, during a period of social unrest and martial law.

The film covers a variety of themes, most notably the rise of Western culture to the detriment of Taiwan’s traditions. The youth in the film, mostly consisting of under-parented and detached delinquents with no identity to their homeland, (most of these kid’s parents were Chinese migrants escaping communism), dress up like Yankee rockers, idolise Elvis, imitate their favourite American movie gangsters, and most importantly, wear Converse – ‘America’s’ shoe.

It’s a hard sell, but don’t let the four-hour run time, amateur actors, deliberately slow pacing and subtitles put you off this one…

KEANU REEVES AND ALEX WINTER, BILL & TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE - 1989

Let’s go back to something a bit lighter, shall we? Here we’ve got Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter in the time-travel buddy-movie farce that’s still somehow leagues better than all those ‘gritty’ time-travel films that come out now: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

This film concerns itself with two slackers, Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) as they travel through time to assemble a menagerie of historical figures for their high school history presentation.

Next time you’re subjected to a self-serious lark that has characters milling about in dust bowls and pontificating about the physics of something that can legalistically never exist, dig out your Bill & Ted DVD and remind yourself that time-travel movies should have more laughs and a pair of Converse in them.

STAND BY ME - 1986

Finally, here’s River Phoenix and co. in the Rob Reiner directed-classic Stand By Me.

Stand By Me tells the story of four boys in a small town in Oregon who go on a hike to find the dead body of a missing child. Despite the seemingly grim and morbid subject matter, the film ends up being proper charming, poignant and doesn’t really have much to do with the corpse at all.

The outfits in this, for me anyway, perfectly summarise that ‘Americana’ thing, popularised in the 50s by the likes of James Dean… white tees, the wide-leg blue jeans and some well-worn Converse All-Stars.

Although River Phoenix and the slightly unlucky Ray Brower opt for Keds, Gordie Lachance can be seen rocking a white pair of Converse. Pie fans will also be interested to hear that big lad David "Lard Ass" Hogan wears a black pair.

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Right – there you have it; a comprehensive list of some of the best Converse cameos cinema has ever seen. If you’re craving more coveted All-Star action, take a look at some more here.

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