When current New Balance Chairman, Jim Davis, bought the company in 1972, the brand found itself growing at an exponential rate. 1970 was the peak of a performance running boom, and today, they find themselves back in that same position. Led by a team of innovative designers and industry professionals, headline-grabbing models are the new norm for New Balance.
Today, the company is one of the biggest names in the footwear industry still looking to push the boundaries of design and function with a lineup of retro-future sneakers. Designer Charlotte Lee has propelled the brand forward with models such as the 327 sitting towards the top of many Sneaker of the Year lists, and for good reason. The brand has found success by shifting – as they did with the running shoes in the 1970s – from the traditional divisions of gender and design to progressive styles rooted in history.
It was the 327 that set the benchmark for success last year, and this year, the newest sneaker in the ‘shifted’ collection proudly carries that lineage. Named the XC-72, this runner proudly displays the brand’s affinity for retro-future design. Combining the best of the past, to influence the direction of the future. It’s pure DNA is at the heart of New Balance, yet the vision for such a sneaker is miles ahead. Let’s take a deeper look.
The Roots of the Retro Sneaker Trend
In the 1970s, running moved from an athlete-only sport into a full-blown leisure activity. New Balance invested heavily into the scene, with innovative designs, use of materials, and increased manufacturing capacity, it saw the brand surge into popularity with models such as the 320, 375, XC15/20, and 620. The latest XC-72 silhouette takes direct inspiration from these specific models.
In 1976 the brand launched the 320 (similar to the 375) which was voted as the number one running shoe by Runner’s World magazine. Marketed at people of all ages, it was the inclusive nature of the design that attracted a wider audience for the brand. Age has never been a requirement for entry with New Balance and the sneaker welcomed everyone to the NB family, not just the younger population.
With Jim Davis at the helm and a technical innovation skyrocketing, the brand grew sales from US$100,000 to US$60 million dollars in a matter of only 10-years. Campaigns, such as the “Three of the Best” in 1979 were more than pivotal moments for the brand. They laid the groundwork for decades of success and cemented a culture that’s still on-trend today. In fact, it was this specific campaign that played inspiration for the XC-72.
A Concept Embodying Retro-futurism
The idea of looking back at your best, while maintaining a trajectory of model innovation is a challenge always present in the footwear industry. Since its rise to popularity in the 1970s and ’80s, New Balance has become well known for taking such a task head-on. With technical innovations across its model range, even today, many of its past and present models sit at the top with best in class comfort and fit.
Innovation builds brand awareness, and sneakerheads remember ‘moments’ in sneaker history when New Balance held the limelight like no other. Whether it’s Steve Jobs famously wearing the New Balance 992 to his Apple Keynotes, or Kawhi Leonard falling back and hitting ‘THAT’ shot to send the Raptors to the NBA Finals, we remember memories of a period in time when everyone just had to have a specific sneaker, cementing these models as future classics.
“As with the 327, I took inspiration and specific elements from the past and reimagined them for today’s consumers. This methodology creates a timeless design that we hope will be reimagined, yet again, in another 40 years,” said designer Charlotte Lee.
It’s not often we feel such a way about a silhouette as we did with the release of the New Balance 327 early last year. Designed by Charlotte Lee, the shoe moved the needle for the brand with a model that spoke to the ‘shifting’ of design. It redefined some of the brand’s most important portfolio of sneakers, that is, 1970s runners. Clashing past and future concepts and creating a new innovative model that keeps heritage in mind. It’s evident we’re seeing that same energy culminating behind the release of the XC-72.
Shifting Conceptual Space – New Balance XC-72
Excitingly, the brand has returned to the retro-futuristic trend again for the release of the XC-72. With Charlotte Lee back at the helm of design, they’re further accelerating the Shifted collection with a model that defines a new conceptual space by drawing inspiration from their past campaigns. The latest XC-72 is an on-trend sneaker with an aggressive aesthetic. Taking design language directly from the XC15/20, 375, and 620 – three distinct models that played a major role in the brand’s ethos – combine to prove that taking the best of the best simply results in something sensational.
XC15/20 – Lateral Outsole Pattern
The original XC15 was built on the same 620 last to which the XC-72 calls home. Here we see the outsole of the XC-72 split into two with the XC15 pattern found on the lateral side of the sneaker in its traditional great “gripper” pattern. Specifically developed for rough ground, the pattern extends from heel to toe and even wraps around the lateral toe box area – lending to the sneakers statement aggressive aesthetic.
375 – Medial Outsole Pattern
The 375 took what the 320 popularised and added technical features. None more obvious than the hard wearing carbon rubber waffle sole. Originally, the sneaker was recommended to the athlete who does most of their training on roads and hard ground, but we reckon its best reserved for casual wear on the XC-72. The outsole pattern is seen here on the medial side and contrasts the aggressive ‘squared off’ pattern of the XC15 with a round lug design.
620 – Rubber CR
Heralded as “The lightweight champion of the world” the 620 featured fantastic underfoot protection for its wearers. The outer sole was designed for maximum flexibility, and the trademark rubber heel is a trademark addition to the XC-72. Another pattern that complements those found on the outsole of the shoe.
ASCEND – Colourway
Taking further inspiration from the “Three of the Best” lineup of 1979, the colourway receives a similar treatment. The debut “Ascend” colour features chrome free suede overlays, a chrome free suede ‘N’ logo, crinkle nylon, microfibre tongue, and PU lining for maximum comfort. Directly reflecting the retrofuturism art of the 1970s with a bold and contrasting combination of colours.
Driven by trends, influenced by 1970s design language. The New Balance XC-72 is available online at newbalance.com.au and at Up There, Above The Clouds, and Subtype from September 4 with a suggested retail price of $200.
Fans can also look forward to additional colourways that will be released over the coming months.