New Balance (NB) is one of several brands of sneakers that have taken the new route of corroborating with fashion houses in launching new designs. As a fresh start for the year 2020, New Balance launched the “Idealiste” (NB 327) at the Paris Fashion Week by teaming up with Paris’ newest trendy fashion house Casablanca.
The “Idealiste” specifically targets Europe’s young generation of sneakerheads, a market that has been elusive to NB’s home country, the U.S. Mainly because the sneaker brand is largely identified as the “cool kicks for American dads” and as the official sneaker of the different branches of the U.S. military: Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Airforce and Troops. After all, this sneaker company prides itself for being 100% American-made, which equates to providing thousands of local jobs in the U.S.
Nonetheless, the company has been making headway in the U.S. youth market, borne by an internal movement spearheaded by Joe Grondin, NB’s Senior Manager for Global Collaboration. The sneaker company’s 2019 performance saw several successful collaborations with popular streetwear brands like Aime Leon Dore, Paperboy Paris and Tremaine Emory’s No Vacancy Inn. The Casablanca fashion house corroboration, hyped up NB’s reinvigorated focus in targeting the youth market.
The 2016 Political Controversy that Made NB Sneakers Unattractive to Sneakerheads
At the height of the 2016 presidential campaign, NB’s image took a hit when NB founder and chairman Jim Davis made known his support for Donald Trump, including the almost $400k donation he contributed to the Republican campaign fund. After several weeks, some neo-Nazi groups made claims that NB sneakers are “the official shoes of white people,” which of course, produced an uproar.
Immediately, the company’s public affairs department released a statement clarifying that the company does not support racism and bigotry. The statement added that the personal endorsement made by an NB employee should not be taken to mean as the endorsement of the entire company. Although NB was able to secure another U.S. military deal at the start of Trump’s presidency, the New Balance’s business relationship with the U.S. started under past U.S. presidents, predating the Trump administration.
Still despite the current thrust in designing NB sneakers for the youth market, the NB 993, the company’s last installment in its NB 990X series, remains as the bestselling running shoes. It was re-released in 2019 with the “Vintage Indigo” color scheme; whilst retaining the lightweight and ultra-supportive features that made NB 993 popular to many adult American fans.