Shanghai and dry

ABOUT A BRO - Ralph Mendoza (The Philippine Star) - September 2, 2016 - 12:00am

I’ll start with the ending: the new water-repellent Chuck II saved me.

After landing Friday night back in Manila, I was able to chase an Uber from the arrival bay, load my luggage, brisk walk in and out of a 24-hour no-drive-through Jollibee for hot tuna pies and Chicken Joy — all in raging midnight rain and puddles of muddy water, but with my feet as dry as a mouthful of polvoron. Sorry if that sounded like a foot disease. I have not written in years.

A few days later, another test. I had an outdoor shoot, and every time I looked down, torrents of rainwater would just slide over the Chuck IIs. A friend thought I sprayed my Chucks with something but it was really the Shield Canvas that repelled the water.

Sneaker science, man. The new Converse Chuck Taylor II aced the weather exams.

But memories first: the two nights we spent prior in Shanghai. Out there in the most populated city in China, we, along with press from around the region, recently had the pleasure of attending the Converse Counter Climate event and launch party. It was held at the beautiful, historical boutique hotel called The Waterhouse at the South Bund — a repurposed 1930s dockyard building and warehouse overlooking the Huangpu river and Pudong skyline.

Musicians, artists, designers, and personalities from all over the region and beyond — Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, even Australia — were flown in for the launch.





Dinner at the sprawling Yunnan restaurant Lost Heaven was nothing short of authentic, with dishes such as the Tibetan-style grilled lamb chops which were so good it brought me straight to the monk zone; string beans in Burmese shrimp paste which is practically a cousin of our local bagoong, and two hardcore fruit platters, among many other hits.

We shared the table with Thai delegates, one of whom was this dude named Apichit Vivatvakin, a collector with over 350 pairs of Converse sneakers. It was meal-stopping trivia, as far as anyone who heard it was concerned. As to why he continues to do it, Apichit shrugs and smiles as I infer our mutual addiction to Converse. The love is self-explanatory. That, and a bit of a language barrier.

If you’re a fan of the Converse brand, you’ll know the iconic Chuck Taylor underwent its first redesign in 98 years — 98! — just last year to create its descendant, the Chuck II. You could say the redesign looks like its parent, but upon closer inspection, you’ll see it’s got the understated touches of Nike here and there. A lightweight Lunarlon cushioned insole — the same material Nike uses in its running and basketball footwear — was its biggest update then, as well as other aesthetic finishes.

Naturally, there was huge hype for the Chuck II, especially the black and white ones, which sold out in mere weeks when they first dropped. And because I wanted the white one, I had to source my pair from a certain sneaker importer, whose Viber profile photo was his face covered in zombie blood. This undead dude would reply to my messages the flattest way possible, using “K” in agreement to my purchase, and “2 wks” as to the ETA, all devoid of any emotion or thanks. If you’re desperate like I was last year, droid-like customer service doesn’t matter. I don’t need no smiley, son. In fact, I would buy the sneakers from a criminal if he had my size. But it was all good. The comfort of the Lunarlon insole was for real. I remember wanting all my sneakers to have the same cushioning.

Fast forward to a year later, the Chuck II got even better — and drier — with the new Chuck II Shield Canvas Collection. Your favorite Chuck IIs, made water-repellant. Again, sneaker science. Insurance for your socks. You’ll never fear a random puddle on the way to the parking lot again. The Chuck II is all about comfort that’s engineered for your environment. Press release-sounding, but true.

And that’s exactly what the Counter Climate event in Shanghai wanted us to see. Aside from the weatherized Chuck II, the new Shield Canvas collection has branched out to other styles like the Selene and Jack Purcell. We also had first eyes on the rubberized ponchos and parkas in contrast colors, as well as backpacks in similar colorways. Very useful in our weather.

The night was highlighted by a rooftop gig by South Korean indie band Hyukoh’s Oh Hyuk, who has about 808K followers @hyukoh200 on Instagram (as of press time I have 0.3 percent of his following). The guy definitely has a cool thing about him. Oh Hyuk struck me as the Korean version of Vice host Eddie Huang, but with extra angst on the side and about four more earrings.

The way to the rooftop was packed and had everybody amped up. I recall asking a stranger who else was playing upstairs. “Kanye,” he replied, as his friends began to laugh, with Tsingtao beers in hand. I took a step back and quietly burst into a thousand neutral face emojis.

But the line eased up and oh boy did Oh Hyuk shine. It was a short but sweet MTV Unplugged-like performance on the rooftop, as I looked far into the neon cityscape, daydreaming the nearby riverboats were Xiao Long Baos afloat. What a night.

It was just fun to be around and see everyone converge in the spooky red light of the hotel, as a purple smoke machine made our Converse sneakers look a notch  more dramatic, enough to probably post on Instagram.

As we made our way back to the Shanghai Pudong International Airport the next day, the nostalgia hit me. I grew up with Converse. My first pair was the black low-cut Chucks with white scribbles, which my mom bought from Toby’s. Getting that first pair meant a lot to me when I was in high school, and it’s cool how it can carry the same sentiment years later.

* * *

Visit converse.com.ph and facebook.com/ConversePhilippines for updates on the release, and for new sneaker styles. On Instagram, it’s #CounterClimate and #ReadyForMore. Follow the author @ralphmendo.



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