The cultural history of the New Balance 990


Sneaker Freaker digs deeper into the unique regional success that New Balance and its iconic 990 sneaker has found on the East Coast for over 30 years. The cocaine and crack boom that swept across the majority of the United States in the 80’s both devastated communities and created a new class of young, affluent and stylish urban consumers. With their newfound wealth, dealers and hustlers in D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and Philadelphia were eager to display their success through conspicuous consumption and quickly discovered the ‘first $100 sneaker’, the New Balance 990. Practical, well-made, and easily recognizable thanks to the large “N” on the sides, the 990 became an understated status symbol for those in the know as a local collector explains:

The 990 is definitely what I call a block captain’s shoe. Historically, the guy wearing it never needed to say, ‘Look what I have on my feet!’ The shoe was always top-of-the-line and obviously official. And since grey was the only colourway available for a long time – until NB started flipping fashion colours – it was never a shoe that had to scream for attention. Ultimately, I think the mystique of the 990 is that… there is no mystique.’

The 990, now in it’s fourth iteration, continues to be one of the most popular sneakers in the region, with local sneaker stores stocking several colourways and limited editions. Read the full article here and shop the latest New Balance 990 V4 available at HAVEN.


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