If you're a casual sneakerhead, nobody would fault you for not having the New Balance 550 on your radar. The vintage basketball shoe is one that has become obscure over time. However, once forgotten hidden gem is looking to claim the fame it has missed out on for decades!
When you think about which sneakers are amongst the most respected in the sneakerhead community, there are a few brands that have solidified their spots in the game. A few obvious answers would be Nike, Adidas, and Jordan. Of course, you also have your designer sneakers that have made waves during their moments of viral trendiness. But another brand is showing a growth in popularity.
New Balance is known more for being worn by BBQ grill masters and lawn cutting connoisseurs to this generation according to memes. A rise in popularity in the 550 shows that brand is being shown more love in the community. With the vintage looks of 80's basketball era sneakers being fashionable right now, the retro look of the basketball shoes definitely falls in line with today's fashion trends. Unfortunately, the sneaker didn't garner much attention compared to its more popular competitors, eventually being lost to time. That is until recent years, with the low top sneaker seeing a huge spike in popularity over 30 years after it's original release! Let's take a look at why the New Balance 550 gets so much love today!
Like many popular kicks that were designed with basketball players in mind, the New Balance 550 were first dropped in the late 1980's with hoopers in mind. They were originally released in 1989 under the model name "P550 Basketball Oxford". They were made by the legendary basketball shoe designer, Steve Smith. The 550 was created with the hardwood being the main focus instead of simply fashion.
Smith designed for multiple major sneaker brands such as Adidas. He was recently appointed as Head of Industrial Design at Donda by Kanye West himself. He originally designed the 550 as a low top alternative to the New Balance 650. The sneakers originally sold for $45, making them a more budget friendly option for basketball enthusiasts. Despite the design and low price, the 550 failed to garner the same amount of fanfare as other popular sneakers from that year, including the Jordan 4, Reebok Pump, Nike Air, and others.
Since consumers gravitated towards the technological innovations of its competitors, the 550 eventually faded into obscurity despite being a solid design for the time. Being overlooked in the sneaker market seemed to be the fate of New Balance's 500, that is until 2020. So what suddenly brought the 550 from an overlooked classic, to one of the most sought after kicks lately?
In 2020, New York men's fashion designer, Teddy Santis, decided to join forces with Joe Grondon. Joe Gordon is the senior manager of global collaborations at New Balance.
This set in motion the collaboration between Santis' Aimé Leon Dore and New Balance. This brought the New Balance 550 back to life. In 2020, Aimé Leon Dore released four colorways of the 550, along with the tagline "International Friendship Through Basketball." The sneakers were unvieled on September 21st, 2020. This was with the help of Team SONNY. Team SONNY is a 15u AAU basketball team led by coach Kenny Satterfield.
After the success of the first release, the second collaboration including new colorways debuted in 2021. This was after Teddy Santis was named creative director for New Balance USA. They were seen on the feet of famous artists and influencers such as Kendall Jenner, Rhianna, Justin Bieber, and Bella Hadid. This made them hard to get exclusives, which were on the radar of sneakerheads watching as well.
Apart from the Aimé Leon Dore collabs, the 550's vintage aesthetic was also utilized by the likes of Rich Paul and Japanese designer, AURALEE.
Big Name Sponsors
Having a signature line of sneakers attached to a name is a huge deal for both the brand and the athlete. It's competitors had signature lines with major athletes at the time. Meanwhile, the New Balance 550 suffered from not having any celebrity endorsements at the time of its release. With its reemergence in popularity coming in recent years, New Balance is deciding to attach this popularity to the famous members of the New Balance family!
Kawhi Leonard was spotted working out in his own Aimé Leon Dore x New Balance Jersey. Jack Harlow designed his own pair of the 550. The "Come Home, The Kids Miss You" custom 550's are named after his second album. 2022 is the year the retro sneaker got love from celebrities, as well as sneakerheads. The once-forgotten kick back is now on the market once again.
A once underappreciated and forgotten gem, the New Balance 550 is a blast from the past with potential for creative flare. With the help of creative collaborations, old school aesthetics, and influencer approval, the 550 is due for a strong comeback!