London, UK - 21 March, 2018: retail display of trendy sneakers displayed in the window of a shoe shop in central London, UK. The sneakers are displayed neatly in a row, and include brands such as Adidas, New Balance and Nike. Room for copy space.

“WE GOT IT NOW.” You will hear this mantra when you enter New Balance’s headquarters in Boston, which covers 250,000 square feet. It is impossible to miss. In the lobby, you can see large white letters emblazoned with the saying. In the corner of the hall is a New Balance archive. It’s a row of acrylic display boxes that showcase key moments in the brand’s past. One case contains mementos from Susan G. Komen Race for Cure. New Balance is the longest-running sponsor of the race, including a pair of pink 993 runners that had lost their appeal over the years. Plastic cases also hold silhouettes such as Rainier hiking boots (580s) and original 990s (from the 1980s). The wall is covered in vintage ads, heel and tongue tabs from different sneakers, and box tags. There’s much to see and do at the brand, established in 1906.

Many people are drawn to New Balance’s achievements over the past three years. Innovative collaborations with brands such as Aime Leon Dore and skilled storytellers such as Joe Freshgoods from Chicago have helped attract a younger audience. Look at these numbers. New Balance reports that media impressions of its collabs increased by around 200 percent between early 2021 and early 2022. Their timing has been a plus. The hype surrounding sneakers has grown, and the inventory needs to be increased to meet demand. For years, the frustrations of the sneaker community with resellers and the difficulty purchasing new releases from places such as Nike SNKRS have been growing. New Balance was able to provide this for people who were looking for something unique and attainable.

“It was just a perfect moment. It felt almost like a serendipitous event. There are a lot of people searching for alternatives to Nike, and New Balance seemed like a good option,” Richie Roxas (a Philadelphia native and one of the most renowned New Balance collectors), who has amassed over 600 pairs of sneakers as well as many pieces of vintage apparel since 1994. “As long it’s a good brand, it’s fine with me, regardless of whether it’s my favorite. At my age, I realize that not everything is geared toward me.

New Balance has been a leader in producing the best running shoes since its inception. They were not made to be noticed. They were designed to do the job. They were simple in appearance, but they attracted many admirers of all ages who loved the grey suede and mesh sneakers. Made in the USA became the brand’s trademark, known for its high-quality products. New Balance is the sole major footwear company producing more than 4,000,000 pairs annually in the United States.

Rob Stewart, a long-time New Balance collector who co-owns New Balance Gallery on Instagram, says that “The Made in USA Line” was, for many, the pinnacle of what the brand is producing. It’s been held in high regard by collectors.”

It wasn’t limited to niche collectors. The brand’s premium products also influenced many cities in America. The original 990 was the brand’s most significant release in 1982. It was the first sneaker to sell for $100. Three years later, the Air Jordan 1 would be released for $65.

Due to its high price, the 990 was a hot commodity on the streets—many hustlers along I-95 in places like Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. Joe Freshgoods, one of the brand’s most famous collaborators, noted this connection in his “Outside Clothes” video campaign. It features a car with a DC plate and a trunk filled with 990v3s.

Complex was told by Joe Freshgoods back in 2021, “I understand what DC means for New Balance.” “Me being from Chicago, my goal is to bring a different flavor to New Balance and get Chicagoans to wear them, but I also wanted to pay tribute.”

New Balance has had a loyal following for years. It took a lot of work to break the reputation of New Balance as the go-to brand for dorky dads.

“New Balance was considered the father brand.” “I could walk into my neighborhood on Saturday morning to see old white men mowing their lawns wearing New Balances,” said Jacques Slade. He is a content creator and a sneaker lover. They appealed to an older white male from a style and aesthetic perspective.

It was a small thing to be called an “uncool shoe” for older people, compared to the scandal it faced just a few short years ago. The company found itself in serious trouble in 2016 when people misinterpreted a statement made by Matt LeBretton, then-vice-president of public affairs, as an endorsement of Donald Trump. This misunderstanding was detrimental to the court of public opinion. Some people boycotted the sneaker brand, and others threw their sneakers away. It was reported that Jim Davis (the chairman and owner) donated almost $400,000 to Trump’s campaign in 2017. Andrew Anglin, the Neo-Nazi blogger, declared New Balance “the official label of the Trump Revolution.”

It would be an understatement to say that the brand needed to improve its image. It issued a statement clarifying its position on Trump at the time. The brand has been positioned as a platform for collaborators since then. This has helped it clear from the pro-Trump ties that plagued it six years ago. Although it is a partial story, the aftermarket indicates that many consumers don’t dwell on the situation.

StockX reports that New Balance saw a 200 percent increase in trade between 2021 and 2022, making it the sixth fastest-growing sneakers brand. Its current collaboration work can be attributed to that, but the dad shoe trend ignited the original spark in 2018. Sneakers made for white men, such as the 990v4, became the shoes fashion-conscious people sought to complement their outfits.

Slade says, “I believe it was the dad shoe movement. But it also took New Balance to look outside their usual collaborative space and find people within the community who have some cache and use those people to highlight their good work.” “With the collaborations, they could market these strong points to a wider community.”

Roxas witnessed this rise in mainstream popularity in Philadelphia firsthand. Roxas is seeing more 990s and observing younger people gravitating towards pairs like the 574 or 550. New Balance stores in the city experience lines for certain collabs on release day, which was only possible two or three years ago. “Some of these people don’t even know the names of these shoes,” Roxas says that you can see they are New Balance customers.

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