I grew up in Converse Chuck Taylors and Vans Eras. Since I was old enough to have an opinion on footwear and convince my parents to buy me a pair of ‘cool sneakers’, they were my go-to. White or black Chucks and navy blue Eras. They’re classic, they work with everything and they’re time-honored. When the Converse dropped their CT70s, I was all over them—different colorways, limited releases, or collaborations. I loved the historic aspect and that Converse had gone back to its archive to enhance what was already a damn good sneaker.
I became aware of Colchester Rubber Co back in 2017, shortly after they debuted and entered the market. The first thing that grabbed my attention was the reference to being the first basketball sneaker. I wondered whether that was substantiated and just how true it was. Other than that, I thought they looked good but were unlikely to get me out of my Chucks. I started to see Colchesters more frequently on Instagram and making their way to the shelves of my favorite stores. But I still didn’t really give them much attention. That changed a few weeks ago.
Walking the rows at New York Denim Days, I came across the brand and noticed that a few pairs had been customized over the course of the event, indigo-dyed and painted by hand with custom artwork. They caught my eye and I stopped to chat with Brad Jaco who was manning the stand. A conversation later, I’d bought a pair of their 1892 National Treasure High Tops in Ecru.
Fast forward a few weeks and they’ve been road tested. They’ve rarely been off my feet, which is partly coincidental since England has had a rare spell of sunshine. So, what were my initial thoughts? As I’m accustomed to Converse, the silhouette took some getting used to for me. But after a few days, I was digging it.
Comfort & Sizing
What surprised me was how comfortable the sneakers were. I tend to find Converse to be flat on the sole and after a day pounding the pavement, my heels get pretty achy. The Colchesters were lightweight and went easy on my feet. The insole is comfortable and a notch above Converse, but not quite in the realm of PF Flyers. I also found the arch support to be better than Converse, as I’ve found Chuck Taylors to be very flat with little comfort. The shape also went well with different trousers from chinos to combats and jeans.
In terms of sizing, I went with a US9 / UK8 which is what I usually wear in a similar sneaker. I found the sizing to be on a par with competitor brands, with the added bonus of a slightly wider fit across the bridge. The length and height of the high-stop is very similar to a Chuck Taylor or Rambler / Center Hi, perhaps with a slightly roomier toe box.
The canvas is breathable and the sneaker feels lightweight which, if they’re going to be on your feet day-in and day-out, is a significant consideration. The upper is lined and the canvas has a tight weave with a slightly coarse texture, accompanied by neat stitching and reinforcement in key areas. Slim flat laces feed through metal aglets which hold the laces in place firmly and show no signs of budging. The lace length is just right, leaving enough to double knot but not an excessive amount which makes you conscious of them flapping around when you walk.
I found that the main area for improvement on the 1892 high top was how easily the sole unit marked on the sides. A fairly minor issue and maybe because I went for the ecru colorway, but I’d give them a quick wipe every time I’d wear them as I found that dirt and grime stuck easily to sides. There is also some slight glue residue around the toe box, not a deal-breaker but visible if you’re eagle-eyed. However, the sole hasn’t worn down quickly and the tread is still defined and strong.
In comparison to a Chuck Taylor or PF Grounder, the Colchesters are definitely lighter which meant they were more comfortable to put the miles in. But in contrast, will they be able to take the pounding you can dish out to a CT70? That still remains to be seen. I wore the high tops on a wet day in NYC regrettably and the canvas marked as you’d expect from the Lower East Side in a constant downpour. But using some cleaning solution from Jason Markk, they cleaned up pretty good. They’ve developed character and don’t look ‘box fresh’ after a few weeks wear, but have the look and allure of a true vintage sneaker.
For me, the main draw of Colchesters was the history of the brand and over time, having access to a different silhouette to the Chuck Taylor. They didn’t knock me off my feet when I first saw them, but having spent some time getting to know the brand and road testing the National Treasure High Top, I’m very happy to have them as an alternate in my rotation. The varying color options have kept me interested as well, with the dead grass or olive likely to be my next purchase.
For someone who’s entry into menswear was from a historic and vintage standpoint, it felt good to know the backstory of the sneakers and their historic lineage. The sneaker is intended for the heritage market and those looking for vintage-inspired pieces to shape their wardrobe. Though the modern updates to the shoes are subtle and mostly limited to the insoles, and the fact that these reproduction shoes aren’t made in the U.S., real sticklers for historical accuracy might be turned off.
If you’re growing bored of your Cons and want to change up your silhouette with something similar, these are ideal. The comfort is definitely a step up and so far I haven’t reverted back to my CT70s. They’ll equally appeal to the consumer who is looking for a good all-around sneaker which can be easily styled with numerous outfits. If you’re looking for some statement footwear which is going to have everyone staring at your feet, these probably aren’t for you; simplicity and subtlety is key here.