Today it is quite difficult to imagine that there once was a time when sneakers were frowned upon in many workplaces and on formal occasions. Even worse, wearing sneakers was almost a guarantee to catch the gasface and get you denied at clubs and bars for "not being dressed appropriately" on your night out. This is how things usually went in a lot of cities up until the early 90s. Crazy when you think about it, right?
Thankfully, in the past three decades or so we have witnessed a huge shift in how and why footwear is being worn, and it cannot be denied that it is sneakers that have had the greatest impact on footwear history and fashion. Once a representation of sweaty after-work sports activity, sneakers eventually transcended their primary function and became an undisputed cultural icon of our times. Today, they are a symbol of entertainment, socialisation, progression, and above all, the solution in our pursuit of style representation and comfort.
There are few better places to examine cultural change than streetwear. What we wear has always been a potent visual marker of the times we live in, revealing our passions, values and aspirations. While streetwear and sneaker fashion has been a tool of outward expression for many years, in more recent times they have also become more of an extension of our own homes, offering comfort, reliability and functionality. And that is what a pair of New Balance 990 feel like: Being outside, but also feeling at home. There is a sense of cosy familiarity.
While the first three versions of the 990 each went through their significant changes, evolving in their design and technical elements, it was the 990v3 where all the pieces fell into place. It was the perfect pair in pretty much every aspect, striking a great balance between lifestyle and performance. That's the moment when you stop duplicating what already has been achieved and start updating and fine-tuning its finer parts.
Four years after the previous version, New Balance released the 990v4 in 2016, a refocused and reconsidered iteration of the 990 silhouettes that came before it, blending history, trends and technology flawlessly. The upper's pigskin suede, leather and mesh construction were slightly adjusted. The midsole was slightly retuned. The signature “N” logo was slightly enlarged. Small adjustments, great improvements. Like rearranging the furniture in your house. It's only logical that many collaborating brands opted for the excellent v4 silhouette as the canvas of choice. The latest version of the 990v4 extends New Balance's “MADE” series in a traditional grey-toned colourway, accented with the collection’s signature red tags to commemorate its 40th anniversary. It’s a homecoming.
Words by Masta Lee
Photography by Piet Oosterbeek