Catch a brief history of industry-fave New Balance
It doesn't take a certified sneakerhead to recognize the New Balance brand, but their story stretches for over a century in plenty of different directions.
Although currently an industry fave, it wasn't too long ago that New Balances were far from the coolest kicks on the scene, prior to the explosive "dad shoe" trend that's dominated sneaker culture for several years now with premium leather and suede pairs. The brand has prioritized quality over coolness since their 1906 founding, when they began as a company that specialized in expert arch support, quickly gaining widespread notoriety among pro and amateur runners alike. Their first ever running shoe, the New Balance Trackster, debuted in 1961 to much success and was followed by more instant classics thru the years like the New Balance 990 and New Balance 1500, famously sported by Bill Clinton during his headline-worthy presidency.
Fast forward and today the brand is a popular player in the lifestyle sneaker scene. Their latest initiatives, including the New Balance 327 debuted last year in collab with Casablanca, have received recognition for the ideal combination of traditional brand heritage and modern design. The past few years have brought rising relevance thanks to hype, leather-filled collaborations with brands like Concepts, Ronnie Fieg, and Aimé Leon Dore — with whom they revisited their classic P550 Basketball Oxford model for the engaging International Friendship Through Basketball campaign we praised here.
Speaking of basketball, the brand has only recent been trying to break back onto the court after decades of hiatus since their last NBA-worthy pair from the 1980s. The scene is difficult to break into for even the most established sneaker labels, having been primarily dominated by Nike and Air Jordan for years now, but November 2018 was a game-changer when NBA star Kawhi Leonard signed with the brand.
New Balance wants to step into the scene as authentically as possible, according to brand spokespeople like their Director of Consumer Marketing, Patrick Cassidy. Knowing that newcomers are rarely welcome in the world of professional basketball kicks, Cassidy makes it clear that the brand isn't trying to be something they're not — they seek to partner with players who want to go against the grain, not to be seen as the shoes of the NBA. “There is no part of our long-term strategy to be the biggest brand in basketball,” Cassidy says. “We don’t need it. We want to signify we are different. We don’t want to be the biggest, we want to be the best.”
Don't expect New Balance to sign dozens of players any time soon, or at all — their plan is focused on connecting with small groups of individual athletes who match up with their line of quality-driven shoes through a carefully curated strategy that seeks out a specific kind of player. And for that matter, players go for NB leather to give that maximum protection and support to their speed dribbles.
No matter what scene they're in, it's clear New Balance kicks are here to stay, especially with their detailed craftsmanship process that frequently uses ultra-durable materials like leather and suede. Dive into the process below.
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