WORDS BY NATALIE YIASSOUMI
We examine the soaring popularity of the brand’s sneakers, which are quickly becoming the new staple in every luxury wardrobe.
It’s no surprise that sneakers have gotten even more popular than they used to be: More than a shoe trend, the spike in demand is simply a direct reflection of our new realities which for the past two months have mainly consisted of at-home activities, save for the occasional walk, jog or grocery shopping expedition.
Sneakers are the most logical footwear choice for this lifestyle, together with monochrome tracksuits – ideally by the new eco-friendly it-label Pangaia – tie-dye T-shirts or tiger-print sweatshirts.
But why has our sneaker of choice almost always been by New Balance? Open up your Instagram feed or any fashion platform on the Internet and you’ll see that you’ll no longer spot as many Vejas, Yeezys or Balenciaga Triple S sneakers, as you will colour-block New Balance styles with their big ‘N’ logo, thick white soles and retro tinge.
According to the fashion search engine platform Lyst, demand for New Balance shoes has been growing worldwide in both sales and searches this year: There was a 41 percent increase in page views for the brand’s sneakers in the last four months and its ‘933’ running shoes entered the Lyst hottest products list for the first time, taking up 7th place next to items like Bottega Veneta’s padded Cassette bag, Gucci’s logo tights and Off White’s lace bodysuit.
That’s where the most interesting shift in dynamics lies: What used to be a relatively low-brow, mainstream label with affordable price points – ranging from 65 to 180 pounds – is now turning out to be a luxury wardrobe must-have of sorts.
For one, it’s now available to purchase from high-end retailers like Matches Fashion right next to Bottega’s ‘Speedsters’ and other popular styles that qualifies as it-sneakers of the season. Fashion girls are also all flaunting them on Instagram with their leggings and Chanel bags and an array of cool, niche labels are now collaborating with the brand on special editions.
Most recently Staud joined forces with the brand to bring out a bright collection of activewear and a reimagined version of its classic 977 running shoe, featuring clashing candy colours. Most of the collection sold out almost overnight, while the sneakers are available to pre-order, to be delivered in August.
“It’s such a classic style and we wanted to keep it that way. It was about infusing it with out aesthetics, color and optimism and just giving it a little fun flare,” said Staud creative director Sarah Staudinger, who was drawn to the brand’s long history, having been around since 1906, and its wealth of archive imagery that’s coming back to light. A picture of actress Susan Sarandon wearing New Balance sneakers while lounging on her balcony in Cannes (pictured), particularly caught Staudinger’s eye.
IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @SUSANSARANDON
The brand also partnered with the up-and-coming Parisian label Casablanca – an LVMH Prize nominee this year – as well as with Versace footwear designer Salehe Bembury, and street wear favorite No Vacancy Inn. The latter collaboration created so much frenzy among fans, that one sneaker head bid up to $50,000 to acquire a pair.
Why the sudden attention you might ask? New Balance sneakers and high fashion aren’t the most obvious pair – in fact up until a few years ago, it was more likely we’d associate them with something our dads would wear for jogging or a game of tennis, paired with a washed-out Lacoste T-shirt.
But just like dad sandals are soaring in popularity now that the weather is warming up, fashion’s new love affair with New Balances could just be mirroring our need for extreme comfort and no-fuss, familiar products. Maybe at this point we don’t even want to deal with the extra weight of a chunkier fashion sneaker like the Triple S or the hefty price tag of a similar iteration by a luxury brand – New Balance’s simple design and long-lasting appeal are enough. They present the kind of safe, practical choice everyone is looking for and right now that seems to be enough to make a fashion statement too.
That, and some clever marketing from the part of the brand which noticed the increased demand for its shoes and built up the momentum by joining forces with the right brands, retailers and personalities, that all together helped elevate its status and forced the – previously snobby – high fashion circles to pay attention.
What makes this ascend even more noteworthy? The fact that a mere four years ago, consumers around the world were literally burning their New Balance sneakers and calling for the brand to be “cancelled” after one of its public relations executives spoke in favour of President Donald Trump – a simple Google search will refresh your memory and reveal an array of dramatic headlines against the brand.
Admittedly the statement, albeit ill-timed, was said to be taken out of context and only made in reference to the current U.S. government’s trade policies. But it still shows how tastes, opinions and the entire concept of popularity can change so drastically in less than half a decade.
We can also see it as a positive sign that cancel culture is easing off and a brand can redeem itself, even after a big mishap.
Whether New Balance can stand the test of time and stay on customers’ good side from now on remains to be seen, but for the foreseeable future those graphic ‘N’ logos and colour-block suede patterns will undoubtedly make for a very frequent sight both on the streets – during those much-needed walks – and our feeds.
SHOP POPULAR NEW BALANCE SNEAKERS
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