Earlier this week, Chris Pine was spotted wearing a pair of New Balance Made In USA 990s in Los Angeles, which saw him join a huge list of famous fans for the Boston-based brand. Timothée Chalamet rarely wears another label’s shoes, preferring dove gray 997s and Jaden Smith-designed NB Vision Racers, YSL singer Zoë Kravitz is also a fan of the brand’s 990 silhouettes, as is Kanye West, while Rihanna has been seen countless times in the 574.
Rewind two decades, however, and the mere mention of the brand would have got you kicked from any worthy sneakerhead forum, with New Balance clearly being seen as the favorite sneaker brand for men on leave of a certain age. So what has changed? “Over the past 12 to 18 months, New Balance has become the new sneaker of choice for sneaker enthusiasts and the general public,” says Sally Scott, CEO of global sneaker resale site Klekt, which has seen sales of New Balance sneakers increase. over 100% since January 2021. “It’s as much up to NB’s product innovation team to pull it out of the bag with heart-wrenching collaborations as it does smart celebrity seeding.”
Indeed, like most successful streetwear brands right now, New Balance’s unprecedented popularity has a lot to do with the carefully considered collaborative projects Scott refers to. In recent years, NB has teamed up with Jaden Smith, Aimé Leon Dore, Salehe Bembury, Stone Island (who rarely collaborates with other labels), Casablanca and Aries, to name a few. Each of the aforementioned drops sold instantly and, in turn, introduced New Balance to a daring new clientele. New Balance collaborations have made once-overlooked silhouettes like the 992, 990v3 and 2002R far more popular than the connoisseur’s choice, and see the vintage 550 basketball style overtake the Nike Air Force 1 as sneakers. Everyday’s Choice for Cool Kids, has been a truly refreshing attitude change, ”says Ross Wilson, streetwear expert and sneaker collector.