Worn by the likes of rappers, athletes, and sneakerheads, it's sometimes easy to forget where their successes where New Balance actually started. With such a distinct legacy, we look back at the origins of this globally successful brand.
From chicken feet to trainers
Have you ever stared hard at a chicken’s foot? Maybe not, we certainly can’t say that we have. But thankfully, back in 1906, William J Riley (an Englishman who emigrated to the States) paid particular attention to the chickens in his backyard and realised that they had almost perfect balance, thanks to their three-toed feet. But what does this have to do with New Balance? Well, William used this knowledge to set up the New Balance Arch Support Company.
Through the following decades, New Balance’s Arch Supports offered welcome relief for those in jobs requiring a lot of time on foot, such as firefighters and waiters. This led to him obtaining a reputation as a manufacturer for the people.
By the 1960s athletes were calling for New Balance to create trainers. In 1961 New Balance delivered, and launched its first sneaker, “The Trackster”. The running shoe was a revelation in more ways than one; it featured a ridged sole that absorbed shock while enhancing grip for the athlete. What’s more, the Trackster was also the first-ever trainer to come in a variety of widths, really giving the customer what they wanted.
Keep on Running
However, the New Balance that we know and love today, was helped along by Jim Davies, who purchased New Balance in 1971 with the intention of making the brand more mainstream. In case you wondered, Davies still owns New Balance today.
During the 70s, New Balance continued to stay one step ahead and took advantage of the United States’ running boom, this was by innovating and making the most advanced running shoes.
The iconic New Balance 320 became one of the most popular running shoes of the decade thanks to Runners World naming it the running shoe of the year.
Did you know that the 320 was the first New Balance shoe to feature the iconic “N” on the side of the shoe? Many people at the time were actually worried that New Balance shoes would be confused with Nike because of this, thinking that the ‘N’ would stand for Nike... but the designer wasn’t worried about this, after all, Nike was making more money than New Balance, so it was a risk he was prepared to take.
By 1978 saw New Balance saw a gap in their range and expanded into clothing, offering the full shebang for runners shorts, singlets and running jackets. Some would say, the best running shoes needed to be paired with the best running gear.
Ever wondered why New Balance shoes are numbered?
Well, New Balance shoes are numbered because Jim Davies didn’t want anyone to be swayed by a shoe because of the name. By numbering them customers could decide which shoe was best for them.
When the shoes were first numbered, the higher the number, the more expensive the shoe was. Nowadays the first number denotes the level of technology in the shoes while the last two numbers show the style series of the shoe.
Embracing the “Dad Shoes”
New Balance is quick to emphasise that their shoes are for everyone, not just athletes. First released in 1982 as a running shoe, their 990 trainers quickly became popular with athletes but also with normal people thanks to its comfort. New Balance was quick to note their popularity with everyday people and released an advert celebrating their “dad shoes”.
Where are New Balance shoes made?
New Balance may be based in Boston but it’s branched out overseas.
In 1982 New Balance made the decision to open a British factory and started to manufacture some of its product by hand, in the quaint town of Flimby, Cumbria. This move gave New Balance the 'Made in UK' seal they needed to create distinction and widen the gap with their competitors. A 'Made in UK' stamp also instilled desirability for customers all over the world.
Similarly, New Balance also releases exclusive designs in Japan, many of these are more eccentric and out there than most New Balance styles.
Who wears New Balance?
New Balance’s isn’t only popular amongst athletes, with Raekwon from Wu-Tang Clan & Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest rapping about the brand. Did you also know that when Bill Clinton was spotted running in New Balance 1500s during his presidency, sales of the shoe skyrocketed? Talking of presidents, New Balance also made a custom pair of 990s for Barack Obama. What’s more, Steve Jobs could often be spotted wearing a pair of New Balance 991s.
New Balance today
New Balance continues to make high-quality apparel, and they’ve also branched out into football having made kits for Celtic & Liverpool Football Clubs.
You can shop New Balance with huge savings against the RRP at MandM Direct!
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