World famous Boston retailer, Concepts, undeniably raised the bar for New Balance collabs with their 2011 “Kennedy” edition of the 999. The nautical-themed shoe gave a nod to Massachusetts sailing culture and the well-known Presidential family that called the state home, and while the inspiration may not sound so earth-shattering on paper, the execution of the shoe’s design was nothing short of exquisite, not only tastefully blending colors and materials together, but also going so all out on the smaller details in a way that not many shoes had before it. There had been plenty of great sneaker collaborations long before the “Kennedy”, but few went the extra mile on typical afterthought elements like the tongue label, lining, hangtag, etc in such a thoughtful way.
As a result, many other collaborating shops and industry creatives took notice and began stepping up the attention to detail on their own projects, effectively making the sneaker landscape a more interesting place for all of us. An even wider-felt aftershock of the Kennedy was the spark it provided to New Balance and their retro runners. NB has always had a faithful following when it comes to their classic silhouettes, but CNCPTS’ ravenously-coveted 999 masterpiece opened the eyes of a lot of sneaker consumers and blazed some significant inroad trails to the brand for many who may have been previously overlooking them.
CNCPTS had a tall order to fill when they went back to the drawing board for a follow-up. Not only was the Kennedy a nearly impossible act to follow, but the perfect storm of magic that made it such a phenomenon could never be captured so organically again.
By the time they released their SEAL edition of the 999 a year later, New Balance was a far less slept on commodity and there were plenty of folks ready and waiting to get their hands on the next CNCPTS x NB release. Inspired by the OTB Abyss II amphibious boot used by Navy Seals, the SEAL 999 offered a darker, more rugged look along with a water repellent finish to help cleverly bring the “seal” theme full circle.
For their latest New Balance partnership, Concepts will be hitting us with a one-two punch. You’ve already seen the recently launched “C-Note” colorway of the 998, inspired by the new hundred dollar bills that are on the way from Uncle Sam, but the NB fun doesn’t end there as the CNCPTS crew will hit us with an eye-catching complementary installment dubbed the “Mint.” Also a 998, the Mint takes a color approach pretty literal to its name, but packs a two-way meaning directly tied to its currency-flavored partner in crime. The shoe also pays tribute to a piece of their personal history with its nod to the 40th anniversary of The Tannery, the renowned Cambridge retailer that once housed the early days of Concepts years before they branched out to open their own stand-alone location in 2008.
The Concepts x New Balance 998 “Mint” will be available this Saturday, October 5th, exclusively at Concepts: in-store 7am and through their online store at 12 noon EST. In the meantime, get a detailed look at the eagerly anticipated shoe and some additional info on the project in the pages that follow.