Ever since Stan Smiths became ubiquitous back in 2014, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for the next sneaker style to charm the fashion crowd. Vans made a solid number of appearances during Fashion Month last season, while Nike is consistently churning out updated Air Max and Cortez styles that will most likely make a number of cameos during this upcoming New York Fashion Week. But after attending Copenhagen Fashion Week in August and informed by plenty of scrolls through my Instagram feed over the summer, I have a hunch about another sneaker that could soon end up everywhere: New Balance 990s, in gray to be exact.
In May, global fashion search platform Lyst noticed a 34 percent increase in searches for New Balance 990 sneakers, which was around the time the brand released an updated 990v4 style. Since then, searches have remained pretty consistent, and global searches for the specific shoe are up 18 percent compared to last year with gray being the most popular color choice.
In Copenhagen, I spotted this shoe on multiple women every day while attending the city’s fashion week. When I asked Pernille Teisbaek, stylist, creative director and co-founder of Social Zoo, after the Baum und Pferdgarten show about her own New Balance sneakers, her answer was fairly straightforward. After having a baby, she needed a pair of functional and comfortable shoes to get around in. The American-based brand fit the bill. As for Annie Friberg, another Dane who makes waves on Instagram for her streetwear-heavy outfit posts, she bought her pair of New Balances in New York last spring. “I wanted them for so long but couldn’t buy them in Europe,” she tells me over email. “You can easily match them with everything you wear, and it’s the most comfortable shoe I’ve ever worn.”
According to Google Trends, the Danish hold the New Balance 990 near and dear to their stylish hearts as searches for this sneaker are actually highest in Denmark. Plus, now that the Danish Girl is the new French Girl, there’s plenty of potential for this sneaker to attract a flurry of fashion insiders in the U.S. who aspire to their level of cool. That is, if they can forget (or don’t care about) the brand’s Trump-related PR nightmare from last November.
Since the ’80s, the sneaker’s fandom has actually been rooted in the DMV — short for the metropolitan area made up of Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia. When New Balance debuted the 990, it was the first athletic shoe ever to boast a $ 100 price tag and soon became a status symbol among the hustlers and gangsters of the area. Over the years, its popularity made its way north to Philadelphia and today, rappers like Lil Uzi Vert and Meek Mill, who both hail from Philly, as well as those who admire D.C. culture (Atlanta’s Lil Yachty, for example) rock “Newbies” on the regular. Along the way, the sneaker also became a signature footwear choice of the late Steve Jobs.
In the menswear fashion space, New Balance 990s, and the brand as a whole, have already surpassed their “dad shoe” status. In 2015, Gosha Rubchinskiy even gave it the seal of cool approval by photographing the New Balance 990 in a fashion editorial for GQ Germany. Meanwhile, dads have made their way into the high-fashion spotlight, mainly thanks to Demna Gvasalia’s latest men’s collection for Balenciaga. Chunky footwear is also steadily on the rise, with such coveted iterations as the Adidas by Raf Simons Ozweego, Balenciaga’s Triple-S, Acne’s Sofiane Runner and Gucci’s beat-up trainers from its Cruise 2018 runway show.
“I think the reason why they’re popular is that it’s a bit of a blowback from a lot of the brands going so heavily on the knitted sock shoes,” says Matt Welty, associate editor and sneakers guru at Complex. This all checks out when you follow the life cycle of a trend. So what will be the blowback to the simplicity of Stan Smiths? Where will the fashion pendulum swing when it comes to women wearing sneakers? My bet is on New Balance. Now let’s see if this all comes into fruition once the women’s shows kick off in New York.
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