Outside the entrance to Converse’s world headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts, hangs the newest advertisement for the oldest footwear brand in basketball history.
The life-size poster features Oklahoma City Thunder star point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has been the face of Converse in the NBA since 2020. In the brand’s latest campaign, mirror images of SGA stand one after another, holding two different color combinations. of the same shoe: the Converse weapon.
“People are probably thinking, ‘Why now?’” said Brodrick Foster, director of product marketing for Converse’s limited-edition footwear releases. “But we thought, ‘Why not?’”
On February 8, the Nike subdivision revived the classic shoe with the launch of the “Create History Not Hype” campaign, inspired by the original “Choose Your Weapon” ad featuring Larry Bird and Magic Johnson from the shoe’s debut release in 1986 as a presentation. basketball shoe. There’s one notable difference between the ads, separated by nearly 40 years: In the flashback, Bird and Johnson are wearing basketball uniforms; Today, SGA is revolutionizing urban fashion.
This is because, officially for the first time in the brand’s history, the Converse Weapon is marketed around an athlete as a lifestyle shoe, not a performance model. The redesigned shoe dropped ahead of the 2024 NBA All-Star weekend in Indianapolis, where the 25-year-old SGA will start in the All-Star Game for the first time. Fittingly, the Gun originally debuted during All-Star Weekend in Indianapolis in 1986.
“We said, ‘Hey, no one’s going to wear this on the basketball court.’ Those days are gone,’” Foster recalled. “So how do we launch it now in the fashion sense and in a way that we can show the consumer how we can actually design it?”
Over the past few years, Foster and the Converse product team have been working to refine the historic Weapon silhouette to the original specifications of the 1986 model, while revamping materials for everyday lifestyle comfort.
“The shoe you would have worn in the past had a lot of cement and no real cushioning,” Foster said. “We wanted to make sure we had the lightest foams possible. We even looked at a lot of running foams to make it more comfortable. And then it was just a matter of pouring in some rubber, so it wasn’t so heavy on the feet.”
The Arma’s revitalization process was sparked two years ago by a random request from an unexpected collaborator, international fashion designer Rick Owens, to use the shoe as a canvas for a modern design.
“We started this journey with Rick Owens, an amazing fashion house that said, ‘We’d like to try Weapon,’” Foster said. “The shoe had been frozen for quite some time.”
“When we launched the Rick Owens TURBOWPN, from there, it kind of sparked a conversation with the consumer,” Foster said. “We also started listening to influencers. So we thought, ‘Maybe we have something here.'”
The success of TURBOWPN led Converse to launch a series of Weapon collaborations in 2023 with respected streetwear brands, from Fragment to Undefeated to Kasina. Converse also scheduled the silhouette to return in early 2024 in its OG 1986 form. The brand specifically singled out SGA as the main star of its upcoming Weapon campaign, especially as both his player profile and style rose in tandem throughout throughout the last two NBA seasons.
“The only thing Shai said while we were working on the Weapon was, ‘Keep it real,’” Foster recalled. “Because SGA loves vintage, she told me, ‘Imagine you go to a garage sale, you find a pair of shoes and the yellow is cracking… keep that idea.’ …So from there, it was like, ‘If we’re going to do this, what do we need to spend some time on?’”
First, Foster and the product team took a quick trip to C4 (“Converse Concept Creation Center”), which operates out of a nondescript building in Boston, less than a mile from the brand’s headquarters. In a hard-to-find two-room space, Sam Smallidge works as the 116-year-old brand’s archivist, responsible for finding, cataloging and storing Converse artifacts, primarily used and previously released sneakers.
“The team spent two days with our archivist Sam and basically went through every iteration of the Weapon that we’ve done before,” Foster said. “There were so many iterations of the shoe. A couple of athletes used different soles and tools. Then I thought, ‘What was the original?'”
From the historical report, Converse focused on two specific elements, both surrounding the shape, for the Weapon’s revitalized design. The brand wanted to develop the optimal “last,” which is the final mold used to mass produce a shoe, and create the sharpest possible toe or toe for the shoe. After preparing approximately 20 iterations while working with ten different lasts, Converse finally achieved what the brand considers the most accurate recreation of the 1986 model.
“We spent a lot of time on this version of the Arma. Previously, we didn’t obsess over all the details like this time: the storytelling, how we wanted to release, color blocking and materializing the shoe,” Foster said. “This iteration is the closest to the original.”
Converse’s final touch on the Weapon 2024 came by choosing the perfect leather. The brand’s product team tested different leathers and synthetic materials while examining them on various shoes, from the Nike Air Force Ones to the Air Jordan 1 and even the New Balance 550. For this latest version of the Arma, Converse used a leather called “Belissimo” .
“We improved our leather a lot,” Foster said, “just to make sure it looked nice and buttery.”
Exactly one year ago, as he prepared to make his first All-Star Game appearance, SGA took the court in a pair of the reimagined Converse Weapon, but only in practice.
“At the last NBA All-Star, I asked Shai, ‘How hard were you going?’ Do you think you could play in them? He said he did.’
“We don’t recommend that, but you could probably play a quarter. “Back then, these were a performance shoe, which is crazy.”
In 2024, the Converse Weapon will be a lifestyle shoe: on the feet of the NBA’s highest-flying player and on posters featuring it.