Scott Patt holds the keys to an icon. As the global creative director of Converse, Patt is responsible for the style and vision of the legendary brand. Formerly a designer for Nike, this accomplished artists oversaw Converse’s 1HUND(RED) artist-collaboration series–which celebrated the brand’s 100-year anniversary and raised money to help fight AIDS in Africa–and, himself, crafted the “100 Ripples of Hope” sneaker, further solidifying Converse as “the art brand.” The Chuck Taylor All Star is an Original GIANT, and here, Patt speaks about drawing on his shoes, his first pair of Chucks and maintaining a fashion staple.
GIANT: What is your background outside of Converse?
Scott Patt: I’ve worked in design for over fourteen years, eleven of those years being focused around commercial footwear and fashion. I’ve also been an active studio artist for the past nine years.
GIANT: How would you describe a typical day at work?
SP: To have an optimal day of work, it begins with a little writing before dawn and a good surf session in New Hampshire. That usually sets my head straight for an enjoyable and productive day at Converse. Our business is so seasonal; no day is ever the same. It varies between strategic sessions that encompass the year or reviewing specific concepts or designs. What I love about my work is that it is cyclical but never the same.
GIANT: The Chuck Taylor All Star is one of the most basic fashion staples around. To play devil’s advocate: As creative director of such a consistent and unchanging icon, you really must have the easiest job in the world. How can you prove that there is actual, legitimate work to be done in the world of Chucks?
SP: You’ll get no argument that working with a shoe that is a favorite of tens of millions across the planet makes for an easier jumping-off point. But much of the success of the Chuck Taylor All Star can be attributed to the continued evolution, relevancy and diversity of its veneering through colors, materials and graphic iterations. It’s important to connect with the people who chose the All Star and look to personalize it for who they are.
GIANT: What do you remember most about the first pair of Chucks you owned?
SP: My brother and I used to go to the local Army Navy store and pick up our Chucks. He wore the black-white and I preferred the blue and white. He used to wear them until they were barely hanging on to his feet, and I used to draw the logos of my favorite metal bands on the toecap and sidewall. When we wore our All Stars, my dad would always comment (and still does) about how he wore his when he played high school basketball, and ultimately, he would tell us about the free throw record he holds at his high school. But most recently, the day Nike acquired Converse in 2003, I went out and bought the same blue and white chucks I had as a kid. Five years later I still have that pair, and they look even better all beat up than when I bought them new.
GIANT: What drew you to Converse?
SP: As an artist, I’ve always seen Converse as the art brand-with some of the greatest artists now and over the past fifty years having chosen Converse as what best represents their individuality and optimism as a catalyst for evolving and changing popular culture. There is something compelling about wanting to be a part of that.
When I first came to the brand, my job was to focus on the stewardship and design extension of the Chuck Taylor All Star. What’s been reinforced is that the Chuck isn’t just a physical shoe, but it’s also a spiritual entity that, throughout the last one hundred years, has been indelibly connected to music, art, sports and fashion. It is a transcendent phenomenon in that it is the most democratic shoe in the world that everyone wears in their own way.
GIANT: Do you draw on your Chucks?
SP: Well, I haven’t done any serious drawings on any All Stars recently, but every once in a while, I will pick up a project from the Chuck Taylor group to get my fix. The only thing I’ve done to my Chuck’s recently is accidentally spilling paint on them in my art studio and write, “I love Lisa” (my wife) on the taping.
GIANT: What’s the best way to break in a pair of Chucks?
SP: That’s a great question with no simple answer. I’m sure with one hundred years of making the All Star; there are tons of great stories. But the best one I heard from a co-worker was the story of his uncle who would tie his crisp new Chucks to the back of his car and drive around the block a couple of times. Then he would dig a hole about two feet deep in the back yard and bury the road-weary All Stars for two weeks in the dirt. Shazam!
GIANT: Andy Warhol once said that business art is the best art. What do you think of that, and how might it apply to your work with Converse?
SP: Applicable in that we are a business that is reliant upon products. And applicable in that great art, like great design, is innovative, thoughtful, emotive and functional. Regardless of if it is art or design, the combination of those elements will connect with an audience.
GIANT: When someone steps out of the house wearing a pair of All Stars, what does that say about him or her?
SP: The great thing about the Chuck Taylor All Star is that it is a product that is defined by the wearer and not the other way around. Think of all the great musicians, artists, designers, athletes and icons who wear and have worn the All Star. It’s about them and their art of choice, not the shoes. They have helped to organically shape what Converse is today and what it will continue to be in the future.
GIANT: Where do you see Converse one hundred years in the future?
SP: Well, considering Converse did the first prototype NASA space boot in the ’60s, that wouldn’t be a bad place to start. Hell, outer space is already full of stars. Done!