There's this old music adage that artists have their entire life to prepare for that debut album, and significantly less time to craft a follow-up. This can be an incredibly daunting prospect, especially if said debut was especially well-received and/or critically acclaimed. This is where the "sophomore jinx" comes in, referring to the instance in which a second effort fails to live up to the standards of the first effort. Thankfully, things don't always work out exactly that way. Every once in a while a follow-up comes along that breaks everything and actually surpasses the debut: Outkast's ATLiens, Black Sabbath's Paranoid, or Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back come to mind. New Balance debuted the 990s as the first high performance running shoes breaking the triple-figure mark at $100.00 a pair. New Balance’s chairman Jim Davis: “No one ever thought we’d be able to sell a $100.00 shoe, but it really surprised, and it took off right away. It was a great shoe.” That unprecedented price tag was duly justified by the advanced technology and sophisticated combination of protection, comfort and premium quality that was implemented in the shoes. After its controversial, yet successful debut in 1982, New Balance just ran with it.
And ran with it they did, for sixteen long years to be exact. It wasn’t until 1998 when New Balance established a new design formula for future iterations of the 990 silhouette. Simply called 990v2, the evolved version introduced a totally new design, paired with the latest technology to push the limits of running innovation at the time, such as the ABZORB midsole for greater cushioning and compression resistance. And we could geek out even further, with exciting cutting edge stuff such as DuPont Engage and ENCAP, which I’m sure you’ve seen before on various New Balance models. Of course, the signature premium suede and mesh was also used for superior comfort and durability, further blurring the lines between performance and that oh so lavish 90s lifestyle.
“There are only a select number of shoes in our industry that can be referred to as iconic, the 990 is one of them,” said Chris Davis, New Balance’s CMO and senior vice president of merchandising. “From Washington D.C., to Tokyo, to Milan, the 990 has been a pillar of the New Balance brand for nearly forty years. Respected by sneaker connoisseurs around the world and attracting new consumers to our brand, the 990 series represents the pinnacle of Made in USA craftsmanship and an understated elegance that transcends the cyclical nature of trend.”
Last month New Balance set off their “MADE 990 Version Series”, paying homage to the beloved 990 line in chronological order. This second iteration also stays true to the original release, dressed in the humble grey-on-grey the brand is so known and loved for. In addition, subtle hits of red are used in honor of the 990’s ruby anniversary coming up. It’s safe to say that they dodged the whole sophomore jinx effortlessly.