New Balance 990 History
The New Balance 990 shoe model is an essential part of New Balance's heritage in the footwear industry. Recognized as one of the brand’s most iconic silhouettes, it is one of the few that proves time and time again that a classic, indeed, effortlessly leaves a footprint in the sneaker community despite fashion trend transitions and different generations of audience market.
Brief History of New Balance
New Balance, like other established footwear brands such as Nike and Adidas, is a renowned name in the sports industry and the whole of sneakers community. Founded by William J. Riley in 1906, the Boston, Massachusetts-based footwear company started by selling arch support and other shoe accessories to athletes. Riley’s business partner Arthur Hall, who he initially hired as a salesman in 1927, played a key role in helping the brand achieve success through strategically marketing its products.
Although the business was booming, Riley and Hall both felt that the company has so much more potential that they had to do more. So in the 1930s, New Balance expanded its production and included manufacturing of performance athletic footwear. With such a brilliant sales move, the brand found a new set of audience market through different athletes who then began patronizing its athletic shoes.
In 1956, New Balance found a new owner when Hall sold it to Eleanor (his daughter) and husband, Paul Kidd. Under the new management, New Balance continued selling arch support products but stopped doing so in the 1960s when it introduced the “Trackster” model as the first ever running shoe with a ripple sole and available in varying widths. However, despite a promising product, New Balance’s sales gradually declined primarily because the marketing was not that effective. Came 1972 when New Balance through its new owner Jim Davis regained its momentum in sales. The 1970s up to the early ‘80s was a pivotal era for the brand since it was during that time that the US running industry boomed in the Boston area. A new administration, combined with the right location and perfect timing, paved the way for the brand's eventual triumph that led it to its current spot in the footwear industry.
The Rise of the New Balance 990
“On a scale of 1000, this shoe is a 990.” was the statement that embodied the New Balance 990 sneakers during its launch in 1982 – the same year that Nike introduced the Air Force 1. More than three years in the making, the Boston-based brand aimed it to be the “most innovative running shoe in the industry” with the perfect balance of cushioning, stability, and flexibility by utilizing top-of-the-line new technologies that are not present in any other New Balance shoes before it. It features the Motion Control Device (MCD) technology, a three-layer midsole, and a Superflex outsole with carbon rubber heel pad. The upper is comprised of pigskin suede combined with mesh materials.
Introduced as the most technologically sophisticated running shoe at that time, the 990 retailed with a hefty price tag. It was the first athletic shoe to unveil at $100. In fact, it was one of the most expensive shoes back then, but that did not stop the 990 from selling out ten times beyond its projected sales. The market welcomed it positively mainly because it was, and still is, a shoe that delivers performance-wise. Serious runners considered it as a wise investment, but its somehow unattainable price makes it more desirable for some. There was even a point when it became a status symbol such that some people wear it as a fashion statement and not really for running.
The New Balance 990 pioneered the highly sought-after New Balance 99X Series. The NB 99X Series is a lineup of shoes produced by the brand with design and construction originating from the original 1982 NB990 model. It includes other NB classics such as the New Balance 995 (1986), New Balance 996 (1988), and New Balance 997 (1990), and the recent 990 variations like the New Balance 990v3 (2012) and the New Balance 990v4 (2016).
Notable New Balance 990 Releases
New Balance 990 “30th Anniversary”
New Balance celebrated the 30th anniversary of the legendary New Balance 990 shoes in 2012 by releasing a limited run of an OG edition of the classic NB silhouette. Only 990 pairs were released on December 1, 2012, with a retail price of $180 each pair. This version of the men’s New Balance 990 is the 10th version of the iconic silhouette from New Balance. Like the 1982 original release, the 30th Anniversary edition features a traditional grey color scheme in suede and mesh materials with hints of white on the midsole, laces, heel stabilizer, and N sidewall branding, while a Vibram outsole seals off the shoe.
Concepts x New Balance 990
This collaborative take on the classic 990 model released as part of the Concepts x New Balance “Varsity Weekend” Pack along with another popular New Balance model, the New Balance 998. The Concept x New Balance 990 features a pigskin suede upper in a white, grey, and navy color scheme, reflective 3M detailing, and a varsity-style Concepts branding. The shoe released on November 19, 2016, with a retail price of $160.
New Balance 990 “Beige”
The running-inspired men’s New Balance 990 Made in USA sneakers debuted its “Beige” colorway in May 2016 with a $190 price tag at select New Balance retail stores. This colorway exudes a luxurious touch with its full beige upper equipped with perforated panels and contrasting white accents on the heel tab and sidewalls. The midsole comes in clean white finishing off the premium vibe.
New Balance 990 Made in USA Heritage
In March 2016, New Balance released its Made in USA Heritage Collection that includes three iconic silhouettes from the brand such as the New Balance 990, the New Balance 996, and the New Balance 1300. The NB990 displays a profile that stays true to its ‘80s original form in a green, gray, and navy color scheme. The suede paneling radiates a retro green look, while hints of navy blue accent are seen on the heel area. The mesh underlays come in muted gray hue, and the laces, N sidewall brandings, midsole, and heel stabilizer are all in contrasting white color.
New Balance 990 Color Spectrum “North Sea”
These chunky dad sneakers released a “North Sea” colorway in February 2018 for $200 a pair. This Made in USA “Color Spectrum” edition of the classic running-inspired New Balance sneaker features a premium quality pigskin suede upper in a deep blue hue called "North Sea" that took inspiration from oceans. The monochromatic upper that features a huge tongue sits atop a chunky, creamy Moonbeam ABZORB midsole and a black speckled outsole. A “USA” branding is placed on the heel, while a black sockliner and heel detailing finishes off the shoe's streamlined façade.
New Balance 990 “Connoisseur Painters”
The New Balance 990 "Connoisseur Painters" is one of the most recognized releases of the classic model. This low-top New Balance shoe made its debut in 2014 primarily in a burgundy and black color scheme, while white accents highlight the midsole, laces, and heel tab. Each pair released for $180. Built with top-notch quality and craftsmanship, the Made in USA shoe features a combination of leather and mesh on the upper, an ABZORB cushioned midsole, an NDurance outsole, and reflective details.