The sneaker of summer street fashion wasn’t always so glamorous…
It’s 2010 and your mom brings home a pair of New Balance sneakers. You internally, maybe even externally, cringe. Not the dad shoe. You can see your friends mocking you even now once they see you in those Dad Force 1’s.
Fast forward to present day and we are looking at the hottest sneaker on the market. Today, you’ll most likely find New Balances being resold at a 300% uptick from their market price. Or, if you’re the luckiest person on the planet, you can find them when they sell out in seconds flat during one of their drops.
All Hail The Creative Director
We are witnessing something truly miraculous right now…The rebrand of the century - something many big name brands have tried - and failed - to do for so long. Think Abercrombie or Banana Republic becoming trendy and acceptable to wear in public again.
The success in these re-brands is not by luck or chance, it’s thanks to the change in creative directors. In 2021, New Balance named Teddy Santis their new creative director.
Santis founded Aimé Leon Dore, a successful fashion and lifestyle brand, that was vital in helping re-release the New Balance 550. AKA, the sneaker you see on your Pinterest board everyday. The “it girl” of New Balance, if you will.
New Balance was in the gutter literally up until 2019 when they began to do the impossible: embark on a rebrand mission so large and insurmountable that many companies went bankrupt trying to do. Yet…somehow, they did it.
Without further ado, let’s do a little dive on how New Balance started as the “Dad shoe” and became the “it” sneaker of street fashion.
Shooting Their Shot With Kawhi Leonard
In 2019, the Toronto Raptors were soaring through the NBA season with Kawhi Leonard leading the way. Leonard is a five-time All-Star and a figure that the public often gets a kick out of, so you can imagine a shoe deal with him would be pretty valuable.
Leonard went viral for a media day interview he did with the Raptors, giving indirect answers with a straight face and a monotone voice, saying he was a “fun guy.”
What stole the public’s hearts wasn’t really the answers he gave with no real emotion, but the laugh that he followed up with. It was genuinely such an absurd laugh that the video clip has 10 million views on YouTube. From that point on, the public absolutely ate him up.
The “fun guy” slogan was slapped onto t-shirts and merch. Kawhi’s little quips would always sell out on any piece of clothing in seconds.
Brands like Under Armour and Nike all have deals with the greats: Steph Curry, Michael Jordan, LeBron James. Kawhi is no exception, so you’d think he’d be the next face of a major player like Nike or Adidas…But no.
Leonard signed on with New Balance with his slogan, “Board Man Gets Paid.” In the move of the century for New Balance, Leonard and the Raptors went on to win the NBA championship that year. Suddenly, there’s respect for their name as more than just a sneaker, but now a top athletic brand.
With a viral personality like Leonard’s and his insane ability to play basketball (in his NB shoes of course), New Balance capitalized: they started pushing out products and ads with the King of the North and his championship team. Any product involving Kawhi resulted in minute-sellouts and doubled resale costs.
New Balance officially became a contender in the athletic industry alongside Nike and Under Armour. While Nike still controls the market thanks to their Jordans and LeBrons, New Balance can finally hold their own. A true competitor now.
From Dad’s Closet To Your Cart…How Did We End Up Here?
Lately, trends like early-2000s Y2K and streetwear have really taken off. People are reviving chunky sneakers and bright colors, and retro designs are all the rage. New Balance leaned into the current styles and tweaked their design but kept the same idea: classic and cool.
Everyone wants a pair of NB’s and your street cred instantly skyrockets if you can get your hands on a pair. Their sneakers do not disappoint – they’re chic and trendy with new upgrades, and while they shed the ‘dad-shoe’ mantra, they still give a subtle hint of nostalgia.
This rise to stardom happened relatively fast for the brand. Over the past three years, with the help of their new creative director and Kawhi Leonard, New Balance has completely transformed into the hottest shoe on the market. Writing this article literally made me want a pair…if only I had the funds or energy to fight people on the internet. Sigh.
Jack Harlow’s First Class Deal
Along with the millions of people watching the NBA Finals, New Balance aired a commercial with none other than Kawhi Leonard and Jack Harlow playing basketball. I started laughing to myself because, honestly, it makes perfect sense.
One of the most viral rappers, Jack Harlow, is starring in the remake of basketball film, White Men Can’t Jump. The Grammy-nominated rapper alongside NBA Champ Kawhi Leonard is the perfect mix of sports and pop-culture that will lead people to an instant NB checkout.
With big names in every industry signing with New Balance, we can expect to see several more coming down the pipeline. And with NB’s newfound success, celebrities and athletes alike are going to be knocking down their door to get a brand deal with them.