The Sophisticated Style Evolution of Converse’s Jack Purcell

The 80-year-old shoe just got an understated face lift in a major way.

The humble shoe born from Canadian badminton champion Jack Purcell in 1935 has been ripped apart–but methodically so. Converse Jack Purcell senior designer John Heinrich and his team have released their latest sneaker, featuring 18 style upgrades from the inside out.

John Heinrich

“It’s not lightly taken that we do a face lift on one of our core products,” Heinrich says. “To do that, we had to we had to start from scratch and start from the inside and build it from nothing and source what we thought would be the most premium ingredients to make the shoe stand out in the long run.”

Army-grade canvas, footbeds with Nike Zoom Air Technology, herringbone outsoles, and aluminum eyelets are a few of Heinrich’s tweaks, but he’s quick to point out that this is by no means a reissue.

Looking at the new Jack Purcell compared to past designs is cause for squinting. At first blush, nothing seems to have changed: there’s the iconic “smile” on the toe cap, there’s the canvas material. But to any sneakerhead with a close eye, this overhaul is anything but subtle–and those consumers able to decipher and appreciate such upgrades are who Heinrich is designing for.

Before joining the Jack Purcell team in 2012, Heinrich was head designer for Chuck Taylor. Though both owned by Converse, the two brands have a decidedly different aesthetic and Heinrich has had a court-side view to both style evolutions.

“When I first started, the sneakerhead thing was still popping off like crazy–the streetwear industry was really gaining grips in main culture,” Heinrich says. “It was super bright and super in your face. I think things have matured a lot over my time period. Consumers are smarter–they’re more dialed into what they’re buying. They’re interested in the weight of the canvas or what kind of rubber it is instead of splashing color all over everything.”

All of which speaks directly to Jack Purcell.


“We’re always chasing our consumer and trying to give them what they’re asking for,” Heinrich says. “Once I switched over to Jack Purcell, the consumer you’re dealing with wants something more specific and a more versatile product that can work with anything they’re trying to put together. So it’s a lot more sophisticated and reserved.”

About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America" where he was the social media producer.