New Balance in Da Pub

Classic trainer brand launches pub inspired mini collection at Hoxton Street's Red Lion boozer tonight

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New Balance might not be a UK-born label, but that makes their British production site even more special. Manufactured in Flimby, the trainer brand has, since its incarnation in 1906, been synonymous with stylish US design and British quality. But now, in conjunction with the 20th anniversary celebrations of the NB 576 style, the location of its factory isn't the only red and white aspect of the brand. Three styles - all named after popular UK pub names - are offered as extra value to the 576's already confirmed iconic design and well-documented quality. The King's Head, The Red Lion and The Royal Oak are the chosen ones, and they have each been given colour coding (navy, tan and burgundy), tongues with individual pub artwork and Union Jacks on the heel. Ahead of tonight's launch at the Red Lion pub on London's Hoxton Street, Dazed Digital spoke to trainer expert and Crooked Tongues maestro Gary Warnett to get his point of view on New Balance and their new pub range...

Dazed Digital: What is it that makes a New Balance trainer special?

Gary Warnett: New Balance is a brand with an interesting heritage from a sporting and subcultures perspective. I've heard of hardcore runners who swore by the 1300, which in its day was the Mercedes Benz of running shoes, some particularly gnarly NYC Ralph Lauren Polo disciples wearing the 1500 as a status symbol and blokes on the terraces opting for the slimmer marathon designs in the early 80s. It's not an obvious brand, but it's one for those in the know, and the branding is pretty timeless. The quality is usually second-to-none, too.

DD: Does the fact that they are manufactured in the UK make them unique on the market?
Gary Warnett: Yes. I think the Flimby factory is something very important, and New Balance seems to acknowledge that. Now everyone's preoccupied with craftsmanship and locally sourced items, but NB have been putting out that product for years in a very understated way. It's the same with their Boston factory too. To get sports footwear product made in the UK or USA is a rarity. To get it at a reasonable price point is even rarer. I don't think there's a better-made running shoe than a UK-made New Balance 576 at anything approaching the same RRP. Over here there's some good hiking boot manufacturers, plus Walsh putting out UK-made pieces too, and it's certainly something to celebrate. Bear in mind that once upon a time there were UK-made Nike runners too.

DD: The classic New Balance trainer has a quite retro look to them - is that a pro or a con today?
Gary Warnett: It doesn't hurt. Anything that's, say, 22 years old that's brought back to the market is destined to have a retro feel. I think 1988 was a bloody good year for sports footwear design. We were all dressed like knobheads at the time, but I can't knock the shoes.

DD: What do you think about New Balance's pub concept?
Gary Warnett: Usually concepts make me a little narcoleptic and are a brand's attempt at sleight-of-hand to conceal bad shoes, but these work. At their core, they're just decent-looking makeups of the 576. That's never a bad thing. The pub idea is the antidote to a very wary approach to ideas-the idea of alcohol and running is very British to me for some reason. The 576 was never really a hardcore runner-it's very much an everyman design that could be worn casually. The 675 was a far more serious running creation. This silhouette is, like the Reebok Classic and Air Max 90, a pub shoe one. So it makes sense to bring them together. The whole idea makes me smile rather than scowl, which is a rarity.

DD: Which one would you get?
Gary Warnett: The burgundys. Is that the 'Red Lion'? It works.

DD: What's your favourite pub, and why?
Gary Warnett: I haven't actually drunk a drop of booze since 1999, so my perspective is gone. I'm more of a, ummm..."coffee shop" man. I do hate the slow crawl of the chains, and the death of the old-style pub. They cease to be a refuge and are homogenised to the point where they're pointless. And all the "old fittings" in the world can't stop that. I like the last stand of the "wet" pub in 2010-the antidote to the rise of the gastro-pub.

DD: When did you buy your first pair of New Balance trainers?
Gary Warnett: I wore 572s and 802s a lot in the 1990s. I can't recall the exact years, but I stocked up during that resurgence. Reflective 'N's and hiking styles always work.

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