Friday, July 31, 2015

Missing the Point

You know what is the most inaccurate phrase in the English language?  "New and improved".  Often the product, idea or service being advertised with that phrase is neither new nor improved from the "old and standard" product, idea or service it is looking to replace.  And now "New and Improved!" is coming to one of my favorite things in the world: Converse Chuck Taylor All Star shoes.

Nike announced last week that it is rolling out a new version of Chucks that will retain the iconic canvas exterior and rubber sole and toe--but will be "comfortable" on the inside.  They are talking about foam footbeds, arch supports and a special lining.  The target audience are those who want to look like they are "old-school cool"--but who aren't interested in the real old-school experience.

At one time, I had at least six pairs of Chuck Taylor All Stars in my closet--in a myriad of colors.  Now I'm down to just a couple--as work-appropriate attire has overtaken my wardrobe.  To me, they are the greatest athletic shoes ever made--not for any performance measures--but rather because of what they represent: the roots of American sports.

Take a look at all of the old photos of NBA legends like Wilt Chamberlain, Bob Cousy or Jerry West.  What is the common bond?  Chucks.  Or see if some of your family members have black and white photos of them playing sports in the yard or at the park in the 50's and you will likely find all of those kids are donning All Stars as well.  For years, they were THE American athletic shoe.  And the fact that you can get the same exact shoes--made the same exact way--100-years after they were introduced is something that is actually important to some of us.

While I was out at the EAA Airventure last week, I came across a vendor display from a company that produces old-style Corvettte bodies that fit over modern frames and interiors.  You can now have a "55", "62" or "67" Vette with the classic curves and lines--but with your red leather interior, your air conditioning and your MP3 stereo system.  But just like the "new Chucks", it's a phony experience.  You know why so many people love the old Corvettes?  Because they are loud, and bumpy, and hot during the summer and you can only get AM stations on the radio.

It's a concept called "Authenticity"--and it's something that is lost every time we make things that were just fine for decades "new and improved".

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