Converse, Initial Impressions, Sneakers

Converse Jack Purcell Review: the All Star’s Rich Cousin?

Price: $65

Why Should You Buy?

The Jack Purcell is a nice change of pace from the original chucks, being both more comfortable and more adult.

Why Stay Away?

The thin upper is not going to last, and there are cheaper canvas options.


ModelJack Purcell
Weight435 g / 15.3 Oz
ConstructionFoxing Tape



Jack Purcell
The Converse Jack Purcell

When you hear the word Converse, the Chuck Taylor is almost certainly the first thing that comes to mind. Spend a bit more time, and maybe you’ll think of a few 1980’s basketball shoes – the weapon or Pro. But Converse also owns one of their original competitors. A shoe that has a history almost as old as the Chuck Taylor: the Converse Jack Purcell.

Originally designed as a badminton shoe for Jack Purcell, this shoe might have had something special to it. Jack went undefeated in his 21-year career. To put that in perspective, if Jordan one every championship from his rookie year in 1985 to his retirement in 2001, he still would not have been as dominant as Jack. Gretzky was a joke. Brady was pretty much Kyle Boller.

Of course, badminton is not basketball. Even from the beginning, the Jack Purcell was much more at home on the ivy-covered walls of elite colleges compared to the everyman’s Chuck Taylor. The shoe cost nearly twice as much as other canvas shoes, and was marketed in places like the New Yorker. While today the Jack Purcell line actually costs less than many of the Chuck options, it’s kept that preppy attitude.


Does that preppy look work today? Let’s take a look and find out.



Jack Purcell
Jack Purcell in White

The upper of the Jack Purcell screams classic white canvas sneaker. The majority of the upper is two mirrored white canvas panels. These run the entire length of the shoe, and meet in the rear where a white canvas strap connects the two. These panels are finished with a rounded piece of canvas along the edge – no unfinished panels here. (That sort of thing must be for the help – last elitist joke about the origins of this shoe, I promise)

Elsewhere on the upper, double stitching keeps everything together (also in white, of course). The eyelets are a matte nickel, which gives a really pleasing frosted look. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but these might be my favorite eyelets in any shoe I own – including things like high end boots. I know it’s a weird thing to really appreciate, but it’s one of those details that makes you fall in love with a shoe.

Jack Purcell eyelets
Love those icy eyelets – also note the finished edges

Moving inside, the shoe is lined entirely with a cream-colored canvas. Along the bottom, the Converse logo is matched up with logos related to the comfort wedge up near the front of the shoe. The comfort wedge branding is located in a place you’ll probably never see it, but it’s another nice detail that makes you feel like you’re getting a slightly more premium product.

The tongue, also lined and trimmed, carries Jack Purcell branding on the inside, along with sizing information.


Mid- and Outsole:

Jack Purcell Outsole
Herringbone Outsole

The midsole of the Jack Purcell feature the shoe’s most famous feature – the “smile.” The smile is a strip of colored rubber along the front of the shoe. I wasn’t able to find any main-line Jack Purcell with anything but black, but in the past this is the typical area for the color pop of the shoe. It’s been done in blue, red, burgundy, and more.

The smile builds on a toe that features no less than 5 different layers of rubber. When the shoe is sitting on its own this results in a somewhat bulbous look to the toe, but on feet it looks much more balanced.

Around the rest of the shoe, flat white foxing tape keeps everything together. Underneath, the herringbone outsole is nice and simple. The only branding on the exterior of the shoe can be found here, with both Converse and Jack Purcell making an appearance.


Jack Purcell Heel Counter
The back is about as plain as they come – soft heel counter outlined with stitching

Overall, the Jack Purcell aligns with its preppy origins. Simple in overall design, it let’s the details such as the rolled canvas edging and smile do the talking. The thin upper means it isn’t going to pair well with something like a pair of raw denim jeans, but would be perfect with a light weight pair of chinos.

Fit & Comfort:


The Converse Jack Purcell fits like every other pair of canvas Converse shoes. That means they fit extremely large compared to other sneakers. All that being said, the last that these are built on is a bit shapelier, with a tighter heel and a wider forefoot. I personally find the fit of these (assuming you get the size right) to be one of the best of any sneaker.


I wear these in a size 12, the same size I wear in Converse All Stars. For comparison, I wear a 12.5 in Stan Smiths, a 13 in Jordan 1s, and a size 12 in the Allen Edmonds Park Ave.

For a full list of the sizing in every shoe reviewed on this site, click here.


The wedge that may or may not exist

These are shoes that were designed nearly 100 years ago, and have had several revisions to make them cheaper to manufacture since. Converse can talk all they want about the “comfort wedge,” but these are not an all-day shoe if you’re doing anything other than sitting at a desk.

In fact, after digging around online and wearing the shoe. I’m not certain what the “comfort wedge” even is.

The multiple layers of rubber on the toe also make the shoe noticeably heavier in the front than the rear when you’re walking around. This isn’t going to wear your feet out, but it is a bit of an odd sensation. Like you should be ready to boot a soccer ball at a moment’s notice.


That isn’t to say they don’t have any redeeming features when it comes to comfort. The shoe is extremely unstructured. Even the heel cap offers a ton of flex. For something to throw on and run to the store, these are great.

Just don’t go into this expecting a modern shoe. These are not it.

Materials & Construction:


Jack Purcell Smile
The classic Jack Purcell “Smile”, seen here in black

The Jack Purcell sneaker doesn’t have much to it. The upper is made entirely of a thin canvas, with a thin lining underneath of it. This material adds to the comfort, but from a durability perspective these are not going to be anything to write home about. The canvas ripping is almost certainly going to be the point of failure on these shoes.

Under your foot, the shoe has a cheap feeling insole that is about 1/8th inch (3 mm) thick. This is better than what you get in some shoes, but it’s not as good as the Ortholite branded insoles you get in other sneakers. Below that, there is an incredibly thin layer of poron used as a lasting board for the upper. I wasn’t able to measure it, but my guess is that it’s less than half the thickness of the outsole.

Below the poron board, the outsole of the shoe is made of white rubber. The density of the rubber is pretty good. I’m sure that it would last quite a long time for a sneaker at this price point. That being said, I do feel like it’s a bit of a waste. I doubt too many people will wear out the outsole before the upper.



Jack Purcell Stitching
Extra stitching keeps the panels connected – this is a Jack Purcell feature they moved to the Chuck 70

These shoes are made using a foxing tape construction. This means that the upper is held onto the outsole by a piece of thick tape that runs the length of the shoe. This tape, known as “foxing tape” is made of reinforced rubber and not only keeps everything together, but makes up the majority of the structure of the shoe.

The Jack Purcells stand out among this style, however, because almost every other shoe that uses this uses a vulcanized rubber sole. Vulcanized rubber can’t easily be cemented or stitched, so the foxing tape is used instead of these. With the materials these shoes use other construction methods are possible. However, you would lose that classic look.

Ease of Care:

Finished edges and laces

White canvas sneakers are probably among the most difficult to keep clean. My suggestion is that if keeping your shoes clean is something you take pride in, get the black color. Once a white canvas shoe gets dirty, it will never get back.

That being said, if you do prefer the white pair, the good news is that the upper is so close to clothing fabric that you probably have what you need to clean them. The best thing to use is simple laundry detergent and a soft bristled brush.

Some will put them in the wash, on cold. This will almost certainly shorten the life of your shoe, but you might think that it’s worth it.


Pricing & Value:


Jack Purcell Logo
Only exterior logo/branding on the shoe

The Converse Jack Purcell costs $65 for the canvas model. They also come in a leather option for $10 more. Finding them on sale is not easy. There are just not that many places that carry them. The best option is probably waiting for Nordstrom’s twice-yearly sale and seeing if they are included, but even then, it’ll probably be a $5 or so savings. As Converse’s traditionally premium line, the marketing for these doesn’t depend on discounts.

The closest competitor to these is probably the PRO-Keds, which retail for around $60. Additionally, it’s hard to ignore the in-house sister shoe to this: the Chuck Taylor for around $50 and it’s higher end option the Chuck 70 for $70. The regular All Star will almost always be on sale for less, but the Chuck 70 has the same problem as the Jack Purcell when it comes to sales.

Finally, it’s also worth pointing out the Adidas Stan Smith. Born to perform in a similar sport to the Jack Purcells, they also have preppy vibe but without quite as much country club baggage – if that is something you’re trying to avoid. These retail a bit more than the Jack Purcell, but are constantly on sale for $50 or less.


Jack Purcell Wedge
“The One With The Wedge” – or so they say

These shoes are definitely designed to be worn for a few months and then thrown away. This isn’t any different than any of their competition, but it’s important to keep in mind when looking at value.

The Jack Purcell sneaker falls on the higher end of the price spectrum, only just being beat out by the Chuck 70 which comes with higher end materials and more comfort. That being said, the price difference between all the various models is pretty insignificant – around $5 at retail. Knowing that there are a few additional details – like the extra rubber on the toe and the finishing on the canvas upper – I’d say this shoe is a good enough (if not great) value per dollar.

Wrap Up:

Jack Purcell Review
The Converse Jack Purcell – Worth it in my eyes

While not a steal, the Jack Purcell offers a comparatively affordable way to get a white sneaker you can expect to last for one summer – maybe two.

The bigger appeal of this shoe, however, is it gives a Chuck Taylor vibe without being an All Star. For many, this is reason enough to own a pair. These will be much easier to pair with an OCBD and chinos.

After comparing these to the Chuck 70s, it does make me wish the Jack Purcell Signature line would return. Designed in a similar way to the Chuck 70s, the little changes would go a long way in how long the shoe would last. Adding 25% to the price to get 100% more life in the shoe would be a good trade off. Unfortunately, it looks like most people did not agree with me and that line was killed off shortly after introduction.

All around, however, I ended up liking these a lot more than I thought. If the overly preppy look fits with your wardrobe, I don’t think you’ll regret adding a pair to the rotation.