December 18, 2013 BY Sneaker News / 9
Did New Balance, a brand that traces its roots all the way back to 1906, have one of its best years ever in 2013? Entering the year with considerable momentum that had compounded with some highly successful 2012 collaborations, NB doubled down with even more guest designers and high profile heritage-based in-house projects. They’ve been able to carve out a sizeable chunk of the classic running niche with carefully chosen team-ups and an undying commitment to killer materials and wearable make-ups, but in many ways, it’s still just business as usual.
New Balance remains the only major brand manufacturing shoes in America, and along with their UK factories, the company is committed to premium quality you can trust on all the models we’ve come to know and love. From vintage staples and anniversary celebrations to the latest and greatest space age tech, NBs ran strong all year, and after seeing the 1600 and 577 worked heavily in the 2013 rotation, we’re excited to see what other slept on silhouettes may be emerging in the year ahead.
One of a few integral NB classic runners to celebrate a quarter-century in 2013, the 576 OG hearkened back to 1988 with original navy and grey colorways made up in premium materials and featuring tasteful vintage detailing.
New Balance collectors will remember this as a turning point, when the brand’s Asian collaborations finally started consistently arriving at US shops. Doesn’t hurt that Fingercroxx’s MT580 is one of the best examples of camouflage all year either.
The long awaited “Tassie Devil” finally released from Australia’s stalwart sneaker publishers. The regal multi-purple/black Sneaker Freaker 998 turned out to be one of the year’s most sought-after and hard to track down New Balance drops.
Another milestone moment happened here with the 1600 getting its first collaboration. The colorway based on American statesman Benjamin Franklin does Philly proud and further propelled the lesser known model into the spotlight.
After spring’s ‘Day Tripper’ ensemble, the American New Balance factories cranked out a set of 996, 998 and 1300s also known as the “American Rebel/Renegade” pack. These premium general releases showed the in-house design team at its best as they threw some subtle nods to ‘1950s car culture.
New Balance started 2013 by working on a new collection with a familiar partner. Herschel’s 420s and H710s once again proved worthy of the luxury backpack brand’s reputation with the team-up proving so successful, it prompted a second wave of drops in late summer.
Another 25th anniversary celebrator this year, the New Balance 996 opted instead of looking to the past to jump ahead with the modern REVlite cushioning update. A new midtop version and the popular MT580 also aided in carrying the innovation to the trail.
One of the year’s best realized collab concepts surfaced in September when Bodega based their ‘Hypercat’ 577 on the original Star Fox game for SNES. A ‘Super FX’ upgrade of sorts took place on the rare occasion where the Boston shop’s stylized story tag replaced the traditional NB tongue branding.
Elsewhere in Boston in September, Concepts got their hands on not one, but two different 998s. First came the “C-Note” in tribute to the new US $100 bill, and then the happy news that the “Mint” edition celebrating the anniversary of former partner, The Tannery, would follow shortly after in October.
Burn Rubber knocked out one of the year’s best special packages in their tribute to fellow Detroit native, boxing legend Joe Lewis. The limited edition violin case box was an amazing touch, but the premium leather construction more than stood on its own as a sophisticated colorway approach.
Ronnie Fieg promised the most luxurious version of the 1600 yet and many believe he delivered just that with the “Daytona” edition. It released during the same holiday shopping weekend as the out-of-nowhere “Americana” 577, but it was the Florida-inspired take on the buzzed about 1600 silhouette that stole the show.
Rounding out strong years for both New Balance and St. Alfred was the latter’s guest spot on a red suede and mesh 1500 with a gum sole. An American answer to Japan’s United Arrows 1500s this past spring, this one proved that the Chicago shop can continue to ignore nicknames and backstories so long as their designs look this good.