Comparisons, Converse, Sneakers

Chuck 70 vs. Jack Purcell – Which is for you?

When the Chuck 70 came out, it was praised as a sign that Converse is finally paying attention to their canvas shoes again. There were a number of improvements – better padding underfoot, fully rubber outsoles, and thicker foxing tape. However, while the All Star may have been missing these, Converse has had a shoe with all these features for decades – the Jack Purcell. If you’re looking for a pair of higher end Converse sneakers, which is better for you? Let’s take a look at the Chuck 70 vs. the Jack Purcell.


History

Jack Purcell vs Chuck 70

The fact that these shoes are so similar isn’t a coincidence. In fact, they used to be direct competitors. The grand father is the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star. Originally coming out in 1916, and basically stemming from a rubber company who tried anything and everything out of rubber, the All Star was one of the first well-known athletic shoes. They have been in production for more than 100 years, and pretty much everyone has owned a pair.

Unfortunately, the Chuck Taylor has seen significant changes. Over the years, the materials and design have been changed to be cheaper to build. Converse realized they were losing some of the All Star’s original clientele and a few years ago released an updated model: The Chuck 70. This sneaker was supposed to match the materials and build quality of, you guessed it, the 1970’s model.

While it might be hard to believe, the Jack Purcell line also started from a rubber company looking to branch out, this time B.F.  Goodrich. There were a number of details that were designed to make these more of a tennis shoe than a basketball shoe, and it was one of the most expensive sneakers you could buy for many years.

Chuck 70 stitching
Identical Support Stitching

Converse ended up buying B.F. Goodrich’s sneaker line in 1972, and since then the two competitors have been teammates. However, while the All Star saw its quality decline significantly, the Jack Purcell was able to save itself from falling down the same fate. (At least partly). The Jack Purcell continued to be Converse’s premium line of sneakers, at least until the Chuck 70 came out.

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Looks:

Upper:

At a 30,000 foot view, these shoes are fairly similar here. Both the Chuck 70 and the Jack Purcell feature a canvas upper, with seven metal eyelets, and a detached tongue. In fact, many of the changes between the original Chuck Taylor and the Chuck 70 brought it more in line with the Jack Purcell, such as the additional stitching up around the tongue.  

Converse Chuck 70s
Converse Chuck 70s

As you get a bit closer, though, you’ll start to see what makes each unique. One of the big differences is the edges of the canvas. The Jack Purcell’s is fully covered with an individual piece of fabric that runs from the toe, around the heel, and back up. This edging gives the shoe a bit more of a put together look. The Chuck 70, on the other hand, folds the edge of the canvas under the lining.

Another change is just how far up the laces go on your foot. The Jack Purcell’s top lace is about a half inch lower than the Chuck 70s. This gives a more relaxed and summery vibe.

Inside, you can see a similar split between being polished and being more classic in design. The heel cap is sewn inside on the Jack Purcell, giving a smooth appearance. The Chuck 70 has a visible heel cap.

Converse Jack Purcells
Converse Jack Purcells

The other difference on the upper of the shoes that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but is something I noticed right away is the eyelets. The Chuck 70 features a polished metal eyelet, typical stainless steel. The Jack Purcell has brushed eyelets, with a frosty appearance. Both do a good job on their respective style – but they are noticeable.

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Mid- and Outsole:

Converse 70 Jack Purcell Comparison
Outsoles, Chuck 70 on Top, Jack Purcell on Bottom

Most of the difference between the Chuck 70 and the Jack Purcell can be found in the mid- and outsole. Perhaps the most noticeable is how the two shoes feature their pop of color.

On the Jack Purcell, you have the famous “smile,” or the black bar at the toe of the shoe. This adds a lot of visual weight to the front of the sneaker, and isn’t like anything else out there. On the Chuck 70, a red line runs along the entire top of the foxing tape, and a black line along the middle. I’d say this is a common style, but it’s only common because everyone has copied the All Star – call it a wash here.

Elsewhere on the toe, the Chuck 70 has that famous rubber toe cap that Converse is known for, with a bit of gloss this time. The Jack Purcell has a multi layered toe cap, with the textured rubber running up onto the cap, adding further visual (and physical) weight to the front of the shoe.

Around back, they both have the brand and shoe style on the back rubber tab, in black with white on the Chuck 70, and white with black on the Jack Purcell.

Underneath is another one of the major differences between the two shoes. Starting with the Chuck 70, you’ll find a diamond patterned brown outsole, designed for grip on the court. The Jack Purcell features an almost entirely flat outsole. In fact, this was one of the key complaints the real life Jack Purcell had about canvas shoes at the time, he said the patterns on the bottom ended up deforming the ground in unpredictable ways, making it harder to track bounces.

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Sizing & Fit:

Chuck 70 Shape
Slightly different shapes – Jack Purcell Wider in the toe and more narrow in the heel

Both of these shoes fit very similarly, though not identical.

When it comes to their similarities, both the Chuck 70 and Jack Purcell fit bit. You’ll probably want to go down at least a half size from your typical Nike or Adidas size. In my case, I go down a full size. Next, though you might be surprised by just looking at them, they are generally very wide foot friendly.

Where the difference comes in is the shape of the last. While there is no “right” shape, the Jack Purcell is generally shaped a bit more like a normal foot. It’s wider in the forefoot and narrower in the heel. Most people will probably find the shape of the Jack Purcell a bit more comfortable, though the difference is pretty slight. I don’t think anyone will take a different size in one over the other.


Comfort:

While the Jack Purcell might have the more comfortable shape, the Chuck 70 has a little bit more going for it everywhere else. Though, only a bit.

Converse Jack Purcell
Converse Jack Purcell

When the Jack Purcell was the king of Converse’s line up, one of the big reasons was the additional padding it offered over the All Star. In fact, they advertise the “Converse Comfort Wedge” system right on the insole. It was never the most comfortable shoe, but it was something that you could live with wearing for several hours – something a lot of people can’t do with the original All Star.

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Unfortunately for the Jacks, this same system was adopted for the Chuck 70, and everything was just a little bit more. The insole was a little bit thicker; the outsole was a little bit softer. You might not even be able to tell if you didn’t put them on back-to-back, but it is definitely there.

Converse Chuck 70's
Converse Chuck 70s

The last aspect of comfort is really a toss-up. The upper of the Chuck 70 is significantly more substantial than the Jack Purcell. Some might prefer that extra little bit of support that gives you, but others might prefer the flexibility the tinner upper of the Jack Purcell.

Of course, neither of these shoes will offer the cushion of an Ultraboost or the support of a New Balance. I wouldn’t want to wear either of them if I was doing anything more than running a few errands or lounging around.


Materials:

Chuck 70 Materials
Close up of Chuck 70 Materials

Up until this point, there has been a lot of similarities between the shoes, but when it comes to material there is one clear winner. In almost every way, the Chuck 70 surpasses the Jack Purcell.

Almost everywhere you look, the Chuck 70’s materials are more substantial.

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They both use canvas for the upper, but the Chuck 70 uses a thicker weave. It’s more supportive, and will likely last two or three times as long.

They both use a foam insole, poron lasting board, and rubber outsole, but the Chuck’s are just a bit thicker everywhere. This isn’t just for comfort, but means the cushion will last longer before bottoming out.

Heck, even the laces of the Chuck 70 are thicker and feel like they will last longer.

Materials should not be the be-all, end-all of a shoe purchasing decision. In fact, I think that many of the choices made for the Jack Purcell were so that it has an airer feel – a feeling that I personally like. However, when simply comparing what materials are put into each shoe, there is a clear winner.

Pricing:

Heel Differences
Heel Differences

The Chuck 70 (low top) comes in at a retail price of $80, and the Jack Purcell is slightly less at $75. However, these prices don’t tell the whole story.

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The Chuck 70 is carried by countless retailers. You can find them on Amazon, Todd Snyder, Sneakers N Stuff, Tillys, and more. That means that, as long as you can wait at least a few weeks, you’re almost certain to be able to find a pair on sale. It isn’t unheard of to grab a pair for 50% off, though that will probably be a harder to pull off colorway.

The Jack Purcell has a much more limited availability. Other than Converse’s own site, Nordstrom is pretty much the only location where they can be found. While Nordstrom will occasionally put them on sale for $5 or $10 off on their semi-yearly sales, you can assume you’re probably paying retail (or close to it) when you pick up a pair.

Ultimately, despite costing more at retail, you’re probably going to be paying a little bit more for the Jack Purcell.

Overall:

Jack Purcell Smile
The Jack Purcell Smile vs the Chuck 70 Gloss

When it comes down to it, the Jack Purcell and the Chuck 70 are more alike than they are different. In either case, you’re getting a relatively well-made canvas shoe, for an affordable price. Maybe most importantly, unlike the regular Chuck Taylors, they both have at least a little bit of padding in them.

The Chuck 70s are clearly the winner when it comes to materials, and will likely cost less when you decide to pull the trigger. From a straight value perspective, they are the clear winner. However, the difference between them is slight. Without holding them next to one another, you’re unlikely to notice a major difference.

Really, the choice should come down to the image you want to portray. The Chuck Taylor is a style icon, with all the good and bad that comes with it. Everyone has either owned a pair, or knows someone who did.

The Jack Purcell is much more under the radar. It isn’t a shoe that you go into a store and randomly buy because it was on the clearance rack. If someone is wearing a pair of Jack Purcells, they wanted that particular shoe.

Really, though, if you want a light weight canvas shoe, you can’t go wrong with either.

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