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Dr. Romanelli is about to drop his latest work with Converse, in what will be called the Beetle vs. Popeye Collection. Along with photos of the high-top Chuck Taylors, we also include an interview with Dr. Romanelli himself for a closer look into the collaboration. The conversation reaffirms Romanelli’s deep appreciation of American history and the impact it has on his work. He reveals that this Converse collection is to be based on the classic Army vs. Navy rivalry, with Beetle Bailey representing the Army and Popeye the Sailor Man representing the Navy. By doing this, Romanelli brings together three historic brands, along with his own unique custom sneaker making talents, to create something uniquely American in two pairs of beautiful Chucks. These shoes are set to drop exclusively at Bloomingdales on October 15.
Do you have a personal story about the Chuck Taylor you can tell us? What is your relationship to the shoe?
As early as I can remember I’ve had a pair of Chucks in my closet. I’d say I have a pretty serious personal affinity with the shoe. In early 2000 when I decided to experiment with the “Dr. Romanelli” brand, I chose to rework a collection of Chucks as my first project. I had started collecting zippers around that time so I manifested a unique hybrid Chuck Taylor with patchwork panels and zippers integrated on the tongue.
This is your third (?) collaboration with Converse, how did you approach this differently than in past collabs?
It’s actually my fifth. This collab was inspired by the last “USA” Cup Sole drop. Americana plays a major role in the Dr. Romanelli brand. I’ve always appreciated the classic Army vs. Navy rivalry our nation has celebrated since 1890, when the two Academy football squads first faced off. That said, I approached the Army vs. Navy release differently in that there are two parts to the equation: Beetle Bailey as Army vs. Popeye as Navy. Although they take on the personality of two of the world’s most famous cartoon characters, the shoes are designed to evoke our nation’s core military divisions. They are a quintessential piece of a larger collection and an even larger story.
What was your inspiration behind the design, and can you tell us a bit about the cartoon characters you are working with and how they came to be muses for Converse shoes?
My inspiration was the classic Army vs. Navy rivalry. Each shoe pays particular tribute to textiles and classic designs from their own branch of the service. The Beetle Chuck salutes a classic Vietnam-era jungle boot while the Popeye Chuck captures the essence of sailor man via the authentic, rich wool upper and rope laces. The interiors of both shoes are lined with vintage cartoon strips – completing the connection back to their respective properties.
We always talk about America as the land of opportunity, where anyone can achieve their dreams. In that same tradition, Popeye and Beetle Bailey both went from humble beginnings to become two of the most iconic characters in comic art history. Popeye began life as a walk-on character in Thimble Theatre, Elzie Segar’s popular comic strip about Olive Oyl and her family. The public liked him so much that he quickly emerged as the star of the strip. Beetle started out as a college cut-up and it wasn’t until creator Mort Walker put him in the Army that his popularity soared. Today, both of these characters are loved the world over.
Collaborations are about bringing together things that fit naturally and yield inspiring results. These collaborations are clearly great looking shoes. Can you tell me your thoughts on why this is a great collaboration?
It’s clearly a great collab – first and foremost because of the epic history all three of these brands share, with Converse dating back to the early 1900s, Popeye to 1929 and Beetle to 1950. Additionally, all three have strong American roots and there is something special about that. The collab seems right to me; it’s one of those drops that just makes sense.