Icons aren’t born overnight. Consider Converse’s Chuck Taylors, the lightweight, travel-friendly kicks that are shorthand for “I'm fashionable, but not in a self-conscious way.” First created in 1908, they began to take off nine years later, when basketball pioneer Chuck Taylor adopted the shoes and helped perfect their unique high-top design. That was just on the court. Fast-forward to the 60’s, when the high tops went low top and sparked a new craze. Sporty and cheeky, the sneakers were made in dozens of colors and even lost their laces. Today, with 750 million pairs sold in 144 countries, Chuck Taylors can be found on everyone: from artists in Shanghai and young moms in Rome to leggy supermodels in private jets. That’s when you get to call them icons. You might even say they're American All-Stars.
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3 more classics
The new Referee sneakers are simplified, all-leather versions of the rounded-toe, thick-soled Clydes originally created by this German manufacturer in 1968. (www.puma.com; $85)
In countries that take their soccer seriously, the flat, wide Gazelles have been a hit since their debut in 1968. Some versions of the Gazelle are even named after such places: the Peru comes in red leather. (www.adidas.com; $75)
Audrey Hepburn made these 91-year-old sneakers that resemble ballet flats look elegant, but what really catapulted them to stardom was Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray’s dirty dancing. (www.keds.com: $30)