There was a time not long ago that if you asked me how I felt about New Balance I probably would’ve scoffed and said something snarky about how well they compliment boot-cut jeans and banker bros. And yet, as the adage goes “fashion is cyclical,” or as I like to say, eventually you’ll learn to love what you once shunned. My relationship with the sneakers began in my latter high school years, during which I practically lived in a pair of grey New Balance 574’s. But as I got older and outgrew my lax-bro sensibilities, those shoes suddenly became a symbol of everything that I wanted to leave behind.
As I became interested (or what some might call obsessed) with menswear, those run-down sneakers were some of the first things to go, as I swiftly traded them in for a pair of loafers. Over the next year or so I came to vilify sneakers entirely, going as far to say that they had no place in any respectable wardrobe. It was as if my relationship with New Balance was following along the same trajectory as my interest in menswear in general. Steering towards the formal, New Balance’s shoes became this straw man that I felt free to denigrate simply because they represented this side of menswear that I thought I had gladly left behind, representing both waves of my past: bro and streetwear alike.
And then a few months ago my pendulum began to swing back around, I had reached my limit of dressing like a sixty year-old Italian man wearing unstructured sportcoats to class, and I consciously decided to embrace my last opportunity to dress like a college student, albeit maybe one from a bygone era. Nonetheless those NB’s which I had once spurned became some strange symbol as to just how cyclical things can be. For months I went back and forth on the shoes before finally biting the bullet and picking up a pair in haste one Friday afternoon. Since then it’s been a rare week if I haven’t had them on my feet at least half the time.
My (re)discovery of New Balance as a brand to be revered is the sort of experience that I was hoping for when I founded this blog. New Balance reached back to 1906 when William J. Riley, a Boston-based British immigrant observed chickens and began rethinking how an arch support should be created. After watching the chickens walk, Riley got the idea for New Balance’s signature support system, basing the design around the three points of a chicken’s talon. The company built on this balanced sole over the years, creating some of the most comfortable and well-designed athletic shoes in the world. Most impressively though is New Balance’s commitment to their traditions. They never deviate too far from the style upon which they were founded, keeping the look and feel of their shoes consistent year after year. New Balance has also worked hard to maintain much of their production within the United States and Great Britain, setting a standard that I wish more major clothing companies would follow.
My tale of New Balance and the actual history of the brand, tell much the same story: think differently. Hating something is a lot easier than loving it, and designating something as obsolete, or indicative of a past that you think you’ve grown out of, is a far easier way out than learning how to adapt along with it. But, if Riley was able to look at a chicken’s talon and rethink the shoe, than we should all be able to recognize that while I’m sure there’s things from our pasts we’d like to never revisit again, if it’s worth wearing it’ll come back around.