In 1972, New Balance made just thirty pairs of shoes a day. The brand had been founded over seventy years earlier, but by the early seventies, there were just six employees working out of the brand’s Boston based headquarters to fulfill a trickle of orders that mainly came from a dedicated fan base of dedicated runners. All that changed on the day of the Boston Marathon that year, when Jim Davis, a Massachusetts based entrepreneur decided to purchase NB and propel them from middle-of-the-pack all the way up to the podium.
During the early seventies America entered into a love affair with running. These were the “Stop Pre” days, when shaggy-haired mavericks pounded the payment in their faded grey tees, short shorts, and suede sneakers. This was long before the days of woven uppers and 3D-printed soles, when sneakers were simple suede and mesh concoctions that were dare I say organic. Of course like all exercise fads, the running craze didn’t last long, the track’s dried up again, leaving only the most dedicated to round the oval. But what did remain was the shoes. Davis and his team helped to brand NB as lifestyle company, leaving the choice as to whether running was actually a part of that lifestyle up to the customers. Trainers left the track, and fleet or not, they ended up on the feet of just about everyone. There was a sense of both purity and individuality to sneakers back then, an attitude that carried over into New Balance’s ads from this era. They were cheeky, yet informational, like having a conversation with a sarcastic running nerd, but the approach worked, and New Balance became like this cult that everyone wanted to be a member of. Hell, over three decades later, we still do.