Designer Turns Her Grandparents' World War II-Era Love Letters Into Jewelry
BY Kirstin Fawcett
February 16, 2017
Courtesy of Forever Yours, Agnes
Instead of safekeeping her grandparents’ old love letters in a ribbon-tied shoebox, Meghan Coomes turns them into heirloom accessories. As TODAY reports, the designer’s jewelry line, called "Forever Yours, Agnes," features glass baubles containing fragments of the couple’s World War II-era missives.
The line is named after—and inspired by—Coomes’s grandmother, Agnes. Seven years ago, the designer was working in the TV industry, which required constant travel. Coomes missed her family, so Grandma Agnes gave her an old letter she had written to her high school sweetheart, a soldier named Thomas, during the 1940s.
Agnes and Thomas eventually married, but before that, they were separated for three years as Thomas fought abroad. During this time, the couple exchanged thousands of letters; they wrote to each other every day, and even used secret codes to share Thomas’s locations.
Coomes decided to immortalize her grandparents' romance by turning the letter into a bracelet for herself, and into a ring for her grandmother. These projects became the basis of an entire jewelry line, featuring both her grandparents’ words and the letters of clients requesting a custom memento. Each item of jewelry contains a word or excerpt from a letter; some also feature metal wire, colored glass, and/or stones.
Both Grandma Agnes and Grandpa Thomas have passed away, but their words live on, thanks in part to Coomes. View some of the designer’s romantic creations below, or visit her website for more information.
Converse’s Chuck Taylor sneakers have been around since the early 20th century, but they haven’t changed much—until recently. In 2015, The Chuck II—a new line of Converse that looks much the same as the original shoe but with a little more padding and arch support—hit stores. In honor of the kicks' staying power, here are 11 facts about Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars.
1. They were originally athletic shoes.
The Converse All-Star debuted in 1917 as an athletic sneaker. It quickly became the number one shoe for basketball, then a relatively new sport (basketball was invented by James Naismith in 1891, but the NBA wasn't founded until 1946). By the late 1940s, most of the NBA sported Chucks. They remain the best-selling basketball shoes of all time, even though very few people wear them for basketball anymore. (Many teams switched to leather Adidas in the late ‘60s.)
3. The All-Star design hasn’t really changed since 1917.
The updated Chuck II is Converse’s first real attempt to update its flagship product since the early 20th century. The company is understandably reticent to shake things up: All-Stars make up the majority of the company’s revenue, and like any classic design, its fans can be die-hards. In the 1990s, when the company tried to introduce All-Stars that were more comfortable and had slightly fewer design inconsistencies, hardcore aficionados rebelled. “They missed the imperfections in the rubber tape that lines the base of the shoe,” according to the Washington Post. The company went back to making a slightly imperfect shoe.
4. Chuck Taylor was a basketball player and trainer ...
Chuck Taylor in 1921. Image Credit: North Carolina State University via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Taylor was a Converse salesman and former professional basketball player who traveled around the country teaching basketball clinics (and selling shoes) starting in the 1920s. His name was added onto an ankle patch on the sneaker in 1932.
5. ... And though he sold a lot of Chucks, he wasn't always a great coach.
Taylor is in large part responsible for the shoe’s popularity with athletes (the company rewarded him with an unlimited expense account), but his training advice wasn’t always the best. As former University of North Carolina player Larry Brown told Spin in an oral history of the shoe:
My greatest memory of Chuck Taylor—probably ’61 or ’62—is that he told Coach [Dean] Smith that he’d make us special weighted shoes in Carolina blue. The idea was that we’d wear the weighted shoes in practice, and then during the games, we’d run faster and jump higher. Well, we tried them for one practice and everyone pulled a hamstring.
6. Converse didn’t intend for their shoes to be punk.
“We always thought of ourselves as an athletic shoe company,” John O’Neil, who oversaw Converse’s marketing from 1983 to 1997, told Spin. “We wanted to sell a wholesome shoe.” The company was still touting its shoes as basketball sneakers as late as 2012, and some of its non-Chucks sneakers still have pro endorsers.
7. The company owns a recording studio.
Finally embracing its role in the music scene, the company launched Rubber Tracks, a Brooklyn-based recording studio where bands can record for free, in 2011.
8. Not all the Ramones were fans.
Chuck Taylors are associated with punk rockers, especially the Ramones, but not everyone in the band wore them. “Dee Dee and I switched over to the Chuck Taylors because they stopped making [the style of] U.S. Keds and Pro-Keds [that we liked],” Marky Ramone toldSpin. “Joey never wore them. He needed a lot of arch support and Chuck Taylors are bad for that.”
9. Chucks were initially only high tops.
In 1962, Converse rolled out its first oxford Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Previously, it had just been a high-top shoe. Four years later, the company would introduce the first colors other than black and white.
10. Rocky ran in them.
In 1976, All-Stars were still considered a viable athletic shoe. If you look closely at the training montage from Rocky, you’ll see the boxer is wearing Chucks.
11. Wiz Khalifa loves them.
The rapper named his record label Taylor Ganag Records, in part due to his appreciation for Chuck Taylors. In 2013, he launched a shoe collection with Converse featuring 12 styles.
For a recent project from Adidas and Refinery29, artists were given a women’s running shoe to use as their blank canvas. Their only prompt: Design the sneaker to represent one of the American states. The results are as varied and colorful as the nation itself.
As Adweek reports, the initiative, dubbed BOOST the Nation, takes an all-American look at Adidas’s UltraBOOST X footwear line. Refinery29 selected several artists—all women—to put their regional stamp on the plain white shoe. Some have been decorated with state flora. For instance, the Florida sneaker sports a tropical frond and the shoe for North Carolina is embellished with Venus flytraps. Food is also a popular theme: Wisconsin cheese, Maine lobster, and Tennessee barbecue have all been incorporated into sneaker designs.
Each sneaker is one-of-a kind and only available through auction. All proceeds raised will go directly to Women Win, an organization dedicated to bringing sports to adolescent girls around the world. The auction runs through Tuesday, July 11, with current bids ranging from $110 to $2000. Check out the artists’ handiwork that's for sale below.