New Balance & Me

by Ali Marsh

My love affair with New Balance started in 2007 when I purchased a pair of the Solebox x NB 1500 ‘Purple Devil’ from eBay and met the seller at Nottingham train station in the UK for $150 for a shoe; that’s now worth ten times that much! The buttery purple suede, amazing attention to detail and that shape…I was hooked.

In the ’00s, there was no social media for me to share photos and my love for the brand, but luckily there was Crooked Tongues – an online forum where sneaker heads and streetwear enthusiasts would meet to talk about their shared love.

During the Crooked Tongue years, New Balance had a much more niche appreciation when compared to its current popularity. The forum’s importance is apparent in the collaboration they did with NB called the ‘Confederation of Villainy’ pack released in 2006, which paid homage to famous villains of the past, each style being limited to 99 pairs. Current market value of each style is around $3000-5000.  

Whilst I always had a few pairs of New Balance in the collection, my focus on collecting them came when I moved to London in 2009 and adopted a more contemporary look to my personal fashion.

Visiting stores such as Albam, Oliver Spencer and Dover Street Market, it wasn’t long before I really started to admire the mix of work wear pants/cords, which sat perfectly on a pair of grey suede New Balance. Essentially this was the birth of the ‘Dad Shoe’ era or ‘Geography Teacher shoe’ era as I call it.  In 2011 the Dad shoe look was certainly not as appreciated as it is now, but it was those inquisitive looks or comments that made me love the style even more as it was challenging status quo.    

It wasn’t long before I gravitated to the infamous New Balance 990 series and specifically the V3. NB has long been synonymous with grey and suede, so much so that ‘Grey Day’ is now celebrated worldwide with iconic grey releases from the brands archives. I was and still am obsessed with anything made in USA and Boston related, so it was only fitting that this became my NB shoe of choice (I am on my 7th Pair of 990 v3) It became my shoe for anything because it went with everything.

They have been a comfortable flight companion, I chopped wood in rural Finland in them and wore them in NB’s hometown for a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. Although not grey, I own one of the rarest 990v3, the ‘Navy Yard’ which was a collaboration between New Balance & Washington streetwear store DTLR. There were just 140 pairs available worldwide and celebrated the Baseball All Star game in Washington DC in 2018.  It was actually a friend in Dubai that helped me secure the last pair on DTLR’s site as it was US only shipping and he kindly asked a friend of his to help me out.

My Journey of NB appreciation has seen me chat regularly on dedicated facebook pages, create my own NB Instagram page and pushed me to build relationships with fellow enthusiasts. This has resulted in a community that helps each other cop releases, trade, sell, and share in the obsession for the product. I’ve purchased tagged vintage NB’s at the local market and sold them to the person responsible for the re-release of the 992. That’s how small and bizarre the NB community can get and that is something I cherish.

The history of the 990 series is also extremely important in what New Balance has become. The original 990 was launched in 1982 as one of the most expensive running shoes at the time, with a $100 price tag. It wasn’t long before it became a status symbol amongst the elite and an essential for budding athletes. It would be seen on the side of catwalks, on wall street, and on the feet of socialites & celebrities of that era.

Movie stars like Cybil Sheppard would wear V1’s on sets in the 80’s. Steve Jobs, Warren Beatty and Christopher Walken were often seen in the V2’s in the 90’s.

The V3, my personal favourite, made its debut in 2012 and was seen on the likes of Sam Rockwell. It was also used on several modern day collabs with brands such as Stray Rats and the upcoming one with Chicago’s Joe Freshgoods.

More recently, V4&5 gained popularity with younger celebs and influencers as the ‘Dad Shoe’ phenomena took off. Kawhi Leonard rocked the V5 on the way to games, while Zoe Kravitz wore them on the streets of New York and Kourtney Kardashian on the way to the gym.    

The addition of Teddy Santis (founder of Aimé Leon Dore) as Creative Director of the New Balance’s ‘Made in USA’ collection, is another great step from the company. Teddy’s influence within the current uptrend of New Balance is huge, having brought out some of the most sought after NB made in USA collabs of the last couple of years.

As an older ‘NB Head’ the current appeal of the brand amongst the trend setters and influencers is not surprising but potentially overdue. New Balance are arguably the best made and most versatile shoes on the market and with a majority of the popular styles still being made in the USA & UK, that heritage culture is being seen more and more on the feet of the world.