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Namedropped by Action Bronson as his favourite shoemaker, New Balance has its place in popular culture as an emblem of style and innovation. Referenced across hip hop since the late 1980s, by A Tribe Called Quest among many others including KRS-One and ODB, New Balance has become a global brand not only for athletes but for those who are drawn to the streetwear appeal, and the aesthetic that is increasingly fused with running wear. New Balance has always played a more subtle, laid-back role in the culture of the rise of the sneaker, matching seamlessly with different modes of dress, and working within different subcultures too. The American hardcore scene of the late 80s was probably the first subculture to fully appreciate the New Balance image on a grand scale. Creating shoes, many of which used no animal products, appealed to the largely Straight Edge element of hardcore. Around the same time football casuals in the UK – always on the lookout for smart-looking, well-made designs that other people on the scene wouldn’t have heard of – began to wear the brand’s footwear. That has lasted to this day, where only a select from styles for a tight collection of brands make it through the net in football casual wear. Simplicity of finish and quality of design has always been the key selling point of New Balance from the brand itself, and it is this that has led New Balance from the place of sub culture in the previous century, to thorough mainstream standing in 2019.
Beyond very particular subcultures, New Balance has found a huge fanbase among those who simply value a stripped-back aesthetic that uses muted colours. The brand is renowned for its subtle choices and that, merged with the silhouette of most of its shoes, fits the dad shoe visual, which has come to popularity in the last few years and has lent New Balance on end of help. Perhaps the brand’s most iconic shoe is the 990, released in 1982, and costing $100USD. The 990 established New Balance as a brand that brought status to the wearer, and in the current climate, the 990 fits the kind-of-ugly, chunky sneaker trend that has taken off in the last couple of seasons.
It all started for New Balance as a small arch support company, established in Boston, Massachusetts by Englishman William C. Riley, which is explains the brand’s occasional nods to its British roots to this day – 30% of New Balance products are made in England. New Balance started out with an aim of providing comfort and a good fit, which survives to this day. Although in its infancy New Balance made arch support exclusively, by the 1960s the brand extended its reach to a far greater pool of potential suitors. Its move into athletic sneakers was the making of the New Balance name – one that has grown in global appeal decade after decade to achieve the status it presently enjoys. The first shoe, the Trackster, was the first athletic footwear style with a ripple sole, focusing on high performance, and became the sneaker of choice for many track athletes without any sponsorship agreements, unlike many of its competitors. The shoe spoke for itself then, as New Balance shoes continue to do to this day. Its simplicity of design and its pursuit of great comfort demonstrate the staying power of New Balance in a way advertising and marketing never truly could.
It’s obvious that New Balance has come a long, long way in its history, and in recent decades has stuck to relevant cultures and subcultures as well as any brand involved in fashion and streetwear. At General Pants we stock a number of styles like the 574 and the 247, which are hugely popular globally. We are proud to work with one of the most consistently loved brands in footwear, that merges running shoe inspiration with super-simple visuals that can be enjoyed by all who prefer a more casual and laid back appeal that fits well and feels good time and time.