Rebirth of Cool: How the New Balance 550s Made a Major Return

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There’s no rejecting that the New Balance 550 is among the most popular shapes on the marketplace today. Designed in 1989 by Steven Smith, the tennis shoe was made as an adjustment of the NB740—James Worthy’s signature tennis shoe—to calm the requirements of high school, college and choose Boston Celtics gamers. 

Smith, whose résumé consists of the Reebok InstaPump Fury, NB997, Nike Zoom Spiridon 2 and choose Yeezy designs, developed the low-top equivalent, which included pivot circles on the outsole, pointer saddle foxing and a forefoot sway bar where numerical branding was placed. 

“I got that idea from automotive design language,” Smith stated to Sneaker Freaker. “It helped athletes keep their feet when they were running, cutting and changing direction rapidly.” 

Originally called the 550 Basketball Oxford, the tennis shoe was priced at $45. After a little United States run, the shoe was exported to UK and Asian markets prior to it was eventually shelved. Three years later on the tennis shoe returned, thanks in part to Teddy Santis, creator and innovative director of the New York-based brand name Aimé Leon Dore. He looked for to restore the design after searching a Japanese brochure. Santis and New Balance located an initial set from an abroad collector and right away went to work. 

“We found a scan in our archives of the old tech pack Steven Smith drew by hand,” Paul Kaseumsouk, a line of product supervisor at New Balance, informed Sneaker Freaker. “Nailing down the shape, the tooling, every single stitch line down to the millimeter—we obsessed over it. It took us 10 rounds of samples and 18 months of trial and error to get it to where we wanted to be.” 

Santis’ ALD and the Boston-based brand name had actually currently formed a collaboration, launching a myriad of cooperations—997s, 990v2s, 990v5s, 827s and 1300s. For the 550’s return, ALD launched 4 colorways as part of their “International Friendship Through Basketball” collection, with small updates to the 31-year-old tennis shoe. The white leather was changed with eggshell tones and the midsoles included an aged visual. 

Aside from ALD, other cultural figures have actually had the ability to put their discuss the 550, and a variety of inline colorways have actually been launched over the last 2 years. As part of his “Conversations Among Us” effort, Chicago innovative Joseph Robinson, aka Joe Freshgoods, launched his model of the late ’80s basketball tennis shoe—a cream canvas upper with hairy suede overlays and an aged yellow midsole—last April. 

Klutch creator Rich Paul likewise has his own set of 550s. Two years after ending up being the very first sports representative to have a tennis shoe cooperation, Paul and New Balance launched a couple with an off-white perforated leather upper, navy detailing and yellowed New Balance logo designs. His name was included on the woven labels and insoles to personalize the style in such a way comparable to a lot of player-edition tennis shoes.

Paul’s sophomore collab, which launched back in July, includes a premium lavender suede upper with purple accents. His name makes another look on the tongue tag, with contrasting white shoelaces, a white midsole and a lavender-colored outsole to round off the appearance. 

“The 550s for me have always been about that nostalgic feel,” Paul informed Esquire last month. “I had this feeling about the 550, and for the first [collab], I thought the 550 silhouette wasn’t new, but it wasn’t really known or understood. Now I feel like more of the masses are aligned with the 550, so I wanted to bring it back one more time. The next one will be a different silhouette.” 

Nearly 3 years considering that the return of a once forgotten design, Kaseumsouk confesses he didn’t understand the effect the shoe would have on today’s tennis shoe culture. 

“We knew we had something special with the 550 and that ALD was going to tell that story perfectly,” he informed Sneaker Freaker. “But we didn’t know just how big it was going to be.” 

Photo by means of Getty Images.

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