Each and every year around this time, editors will start telling you about summer footwear. These same dudes will balance safe picks—canvas uppers paired with vulcanized soles—and more radical, of the moment designs. You may hear that, to your surprise, boat shoes are in. (Note: Boatshoes, if you're from north of the Bronx and east of the Hudson River, are always in.) Most often, you'll be told all about heritage and legacy and some serendipitous moment when sporting footwear crossed over and the radical youths of the 1950s grasped onto it and made it forever cool.
Because we are assholes, we're going to do the same thing.
Very few excellent sneakers are born on the badminton court. But, who cares. You haven't played basketball since 8th grade or stepped on a tennis court since freshman year. Sport, when it comes to style, hardly matters. However, the legacy of the Jack Purcell—named after a Canadian (of all things) badminton champion and originally produced by the B.F. Goodrich Company—isn't based on remembering any of its actual court heritage.
"Before Converse acquired the license in the early 1970s, it was a BF Goodrich owned shoe, so it was a sibling of the PF Flyers line," explains cultural historian Gary Warnett. "So, James Dean isn't wearing Converse Jack Purcells in that classic shot that nostalgic Tumblr dudes love to break out. The fact that Bruce Springsteen wore Converse Jack Purcells makes them equally excellent."
The Purcell, you see, spans corporations AND generations. Goodrich advertisements highlight on-and-off court potential. In one instance, you learn that "Cool-conditioned, high-performance uppers take little maintenance." In another, we find that Cliff Richey (a middling American professional tennis player) has never worn a shoe with a better insole. Performance was sold, but certainly not oversold. Whereas some shoes favored endorsers who actually won, the Jack Purcell was worn by bon vivants.
Later Converse advertisements hammer down this point. Seated by the country club pool, a man in tartan trousers and JPs plays footsie with a bikini clad cougar. He is the king of the suburbs. He is the man to which all would-be swingers bow. He is snatching a hot broad from the grasps of a man wearing lesser sneakers.
Victory in the Purcell is less about hoisting trophies than it is about stealing trophy wives. Victory in the Purcell is about outwitting an opponent not across the net, but beside you at the bar. It is a shoe that celebrates rebellion without the stink of a cliched rock club.
The Slam Jam Jack Purcell, celebrating as it does the "Summer Journey," is available May 31.