Currently reading : Converse Fetish
‘Made by You’ is the latest carefully created marketing strategy slogan made for the quintessentially American shoe brand Converse. Huge billboards around the world are currently on show displaying individually modified trainers prying to the notion that the timeless shoes are to be bought and then customized to your own personality. Many of the trainers exhibited shown them in worn states alluding to the idea that sentimental values become attached to clothing which turns them into nostalgic memories and experiences.
The shoes are famously intertwined with notions of rock and roll and an air of effortless cool and in many ways are quite democratic. Worn by a huge array of the world population and at a relatively regulated price range, the canvas shoes provoke imagery of a counter cultural history. For a completely simple piece of design the Chuck Taylor shoes have managed to receive lasting popularity due to their musical associations. From the likes of Kurt Cobain and The Ramones to any subcultural club or venue in any city there is always someone within the cutting edge wearing a pair. But it can also be said that even the most conservatively driven individual would simultaneously own them, which is sort of fascinating for a fashion brand to remain that attention. It seems almost impossible to dislike a pair of Converse and almost everyone has a memory of buying their first pair like a right of passage into adolescence.
So now, in 2015 it seems obvious that in our capitalistic world the company would do everything that they could to exploit this authentic association. These adverts sum up this desire to prove their intention by trying to show their global influence. Each pair of well worn shoes have their owners names signed underneath, ranging from people in all the continents and even specially chosen pieces from Andy Warhol’s archives and Patti Smith’s own black Chucks.
The other night I was going back to my friend’s flat after a night out on a Saturday, on arriving back to theirs we found on the wall beside their home in Dalston that there was a brand new piece of pseudo alternative ‘street art’ and the ‘Made by You’ sticker accompanying it showing the artists own Converses. My friend instinctually ripped down the Converse poster in disgust to discover that there was a man being paid by Converse to guard the fake street art-cum-blatant advert all night.
It seemed outstanding that Converse had paid a man to stand in the freezing cold streets of East London’s increasingly banal but popular nightlife to advertise a piece of false graffiti created for their company while the troves of weekend East London tourists drunkenly stumbled through the streets.
This attempted plight for authenticity and the desperation to create a legitimate subversive energy to the brand to this extreme blew my mind and made my skin crawl. Especially when the day before I’d stumbled across this brilliant fetish on Flickr. I wasn’t sure if this find was Converse’s dream or nightmare, their quest for authenticity really doesn’t come more real than this. The perverse obsession with the canvas trainers by abby28xyx explores new realms of fascination and obsession, which I’d never seen within a contemporary fetishist before.
Hundreds of photos of this particular person’s fetish appear on their Flickr profile of their obsessive collection of hundreds of pairs of Converse, in every colour and every counter cultural association from animal print to flames to skull and cross bones are in their possession. Photos show a large closet holding countless pairs of Converse in colour co-ordination and even repeat colours. The pure quantity and arrangement of the shoes was one thing, but then discovering their separate album named ‘Fetish’ brought in a whole new realm of fascination.
This particular selection of photos brings the word juxtaposition to a whole new meaning. This Flickr user displays a pair of Converses on a bed next to your stereotypical fetish heels. Sometimes the shoes interact in the photos, entering each other with the heel into the tongue of the trainer, laces intertwining into one another or stepping on one another. Others are more excessive, dildos and whips are placed within the shoes in a similar display as someone placing ornaments on a mantle piece. The particular execution of each photo is brilliantly considered as the interplay of the blatant sexuality of the stripper boot and the hetero-normative safety of the Converses creates a story of a fantasy, two people meeting who never usually would.
The shoes are almost always displayed on a bed and the interaction between the Converse and the sex shoes alludes to a masculine and feminine relationship. The normality of the Converse in contrast to the obvious sexuality of a stripper heel leaves an uneasy image of coincidence or mistake rather than a preplanned fantasy. A foot fetish is one of the most prevalent fetishes and the quantities of shoes that filter into this fetish are endless. However the apparent ‘hipster’ shoe in this contemporary context creates visions of men in bad indie bands rather than an overpowering sexuality.
As I went on to research the sexuality of Converse I found some exceptional trampling videos, women and men wearing converse and then treading on a variety of objects varying from the likes of soft toys, ugg boots and even mens faces. Fetishes most commonly occur from a place of emerging new sexuality, the pangs of early puberty and an awareness of the bodies ability to produce new tactile emotions of pleasure. So in many ways maybe it isn’t so strange that the infamous shoes are such a turn on. A first romantic partner as a teenager maybe have worn them or a teen crush on a rock star. Clothing acts as a form of communication which transcends language and the universal popularity of the shoes has clearly filtered into a global form of obscure fetish.
So, if Converse are still trying to chase ways to consider themselves the root of the cutting edge, I think they can firmly find themselves pleased with these peoples originally fascinating and obscure obsessions because really, this has to be one of the most interesting manipulations of the brands identity ever to be created.