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How the New Balance 990 Became a Cultural Phenomenon

Featuring conversations with musician Chaz French, model Veneda Budny, and Dominick Adams of Maketto.

As trends come and go, brands sometimes leave a permanent impression which spawns a loyal fanbase. In very special cases, that loyal fanbase can grow into a cult-like following and even into a cultural phenomenon. The New Balance 990 fits that description, with the running silhouette now more than 30 years old. At its launch, the 990 was the first performance athletic shoe offered at $100 USD, yet it was able to cultivate a passionate customer-base dedicated to the sneaker’s niche despite its high price. Much of the 990′s success today can be spoken about in the same terms as the New Balance brand’s — a commitment to stability, cushioning, and flexibility incorporated with classic aesthetics, which has been adopted by scenes around the world.

The story behind the New Balance 990 started in 1982 with the sneaker undergoing minimal cosmetic changes since its introduction. Its wide fit, grey suede, and clean simplicity continues to make it a cult-classic. From Steve Jobs’ go-to shoe to teaming up with brands such as Concepts and J.Crew to transcending its dad shoe status, the 990 continues to carry over its original sensibilities as a performance running shoe even as it gets slight tweaks and version updates. In 2015, designer Gosha Rubchinskiy welcomed the 990v3 into the realm of contemporary fashion, styling the shoe for German GQ. The model remains an east coast favorite as the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia regions rely on shops, Shoe City and DTLR to stock the limited colorways. Rather than trend-chasing, the 990 concept has stayed true to its principles, its “Made in the USA” heritage, and has slowly but surely became an international trend.

Image CreditSebastian Jimenez/HYPEBEAST
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