It has been lamented by some, or by many, that menswear has grown increasingly casual over the past few decades. The jacket and tie has given way to the button-down collar, which has given way to the polo shirt, which has finally given way to the t-shirt with ironic humor. But not all casual fashion need be sloppy, uncreative, and the province of depressing losers. In particular, casual footwear can be a bastion of style and taste in a dressed-up world, and the one brand that stands above others is New Balance.
Founded in 1905 by William J. Riley, New Balance has always marched to the beat of its own drum. It has never mounted the massive advertising campaigns of its competitors, nor has it sought on the endorsements of superstar athletes (though there are a number of athletes who swear by the shoes). What New Balance offers in place of such bright lights is solid construction, precise engineering, and handsome, timeless design. Unlike most athletic shoe makers, New Balance maintains manufacturing presence in the United States and the United Kingdom, ensuring that its more expensive shoes feature craftsmanship worthy of their prices. And the New Balance shoe itself is a work of beauty, at once dramatic and subtle, a symphony of angle and shape and color.
But just because New Balance has never tooted its own horn doesn’t mean it has eschewed the idea of progress. New Balance shoes are always trying to move forward. They introduced gel inserts and heel counters to their shoes, and they offer shoes in a broader selection of sizes than their competitors; they even offer shoes in different widths. But it is in design, and in cultural presence, that New Balance stays ahead of its competition. They have collaborated with designers and companies as diverse as REALMADHECTIC and Milkcrate, Ron Herman and Nice Kicks. They have partnered with mega-retailer J. Crew to release the fabled 998 sneaker to America, a shoe previously only available in Japan. They have allowed visitors to their website to design their own New Balance shoes, allowing every possible combination of color and style to move from the minds of buyers to the feet of wearers.
New Balance manages to toe the line between outrageous expression and handsome restraint. It explores new venues while remaining steadfast in its roots. It is the first shoe you should reach for when you’re out exercising, and it’s not the last shoe you should reach for when you need to be out on the town. Tip your cap to New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc. for 107 years of good work. They deserve it.
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