Converse has just announced a Black Sabbath collection based on its classic Chuck Taylor All-Star sneaker sneaker design, which may be more of a brilliantly synergistic marketing concept than anyone could have ever guessed. A quick look at the lives of Chuck Taylor and Ozzy Osborne would seem to bear this out.
Metalheads, ironic or un-ironic hipsters, wannabe hessians and others now have their choice of four different Black Sabbath kicks: artwork from the band's grainy self-titled 1970 debut featuring the Mapledurham Watermill in Oxfordshire, England complete with a stitched Black Sabbath tongue; another based on Sabbath's second release "Paranoid" with that album's phased-out image of a man wielding a sword (an allusion to the album's original title "War Pigs"); a sneaker based on the band's last studio album "Never Say Die!' with an interior liner featuring classic black and white images of the original line-up; and another featuring an embroidered logo from Black Sabbath’s 4th studio album “Vol. 4” with a graphic of Ozzy from that album's cover.
All of which is fine and well, but one has to wonder what Chuck Taylor, the shoe's namesake and basketball player responsible for the most the successful selling basketball shoe in history, would think of the partnership especially in light of Ozzy Osbourne notorious behavior. This includes his well-documented battles with substance abuse, biting heads off winged creatures and urinating on national monuments among many other transgressions.
Meanwhile, Chuck Taylor, who was born in 1901 in Azalia, Indiana, on first blush, would seem to have little in common with the "madman." In 1921, according to the Basketball Hall of Fame site, Taylor "hobbled into a Converse Chicago sales office complaining of sore feet and persuaded executives to create a shoe especially for basketball. Taylor, who was a two-time All-State selection at Columbus High School and a journeyman jump shooter for eleven professional seasons, was an entrepreneur and involved in all facets of basketball promotion." All of which would seem to have nothing in common with Ozzy's rather loutish behavior.
But according to a Blogspot entry by Abe Aamidor, who authored "Chuck Taylor Allstar: The True Story of the Man Behind the Most Famous Athletic Show in History," Chuck Taylor also had a "dark side." Taylor allegedly claimed he was a "veteran of the 'World Champion' Original Celtics from New York City and the 'Olympic champion' Buffalo Germans. He was neither, but the myth helped sell shoes." And in 1957, Mr. Taylor, supposedly "put on a basketball clinic at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., then ran off the with the athletic director’s wife. 'He had women everywhere,' said long-time associate Joe Dean, retired athletic director at Louisiana State University."
Though most will never know the historical context of the Chuck Taylor-Black Sabbath branding partnership, ultimately, all that really matters, is how damn cool these sneakers look.