While there may have been a few pretenders to the throne over the course of the last few years, when it comes to the so-called dad sneaker, there’s one label that reigns supreme: New Balance. The American footwear brand first launched its 990 series in 1982, and since then, it’s become the de facto kick for everyone from dads in Ohio to supermodels in London, according to its latest campaign for the new 990v5 silhouette.
The sneaker didn’t just happen by accident though – in fact, it was 76 years in the making. The first 990 featured a thick moulded midsole for support, a grey suede upper paralleled with mesh and 3M accents – all initially created for performance. However, as it evolved, the sneaker drew interest from dads everywhere. The shoe was also the first to break the triple-figure $ mark (priced at $100); really, the first high fashion shoe to pave the way for the masses that later followed.
“The New Balance 990 is probably the most recognised dad shoe, and more specifically the 990v4 which stole the limelight over the last couple of years,” says Robert Stewart, who co-started Instagram account @newbalance_gallery with Thomas Lindie; the biggest online community for collectors and fans of New Balance, which boasts over 300k followers. “New Balance’s 99x series encapsulates the whole dad shoe trend,” Lindie adds.
While you might think the trend it was non-existent before rappers and supermodels deemed it legit (with some help from Balenciaga, Vetements, and Gucci), the dad shoe has never truly gone out of style since the 990 debuted. Brands like Nike and Asics have both created legends like Nike Air Monarch that originally dropped in 2000 – receiving a facelift earlier this year courtesy of Martine Rose.
Asics’ 1993 release, the Asics GEL-Kayano also got a makeover this year thanks to GmbH, set to drop later this year. Elsewhere, London-based designer Kiko Kostadinov has also contributed his own offerings with his ongoing Asics collaborations. “I think when other brands embark on creating shoes specifically for this trend, it’s a bit like they’re giving New Balance a nod,” says Lindie.
“When other brands embark on creating shoes specifically for the dad shoe trend trend, it’s a bit like they’re giving New Balance a nod” – Thomas Lindie
It’s hard to predict the future of dad shoes, but the charm of the 990 is most likely not going anywhere. “New Balance will still be there just doing its thing. That’s the good thing about the dad shoe trend, it’s pretty timeless,” he continues.
While brands have reinterpreted iconic dad shoe models, the New Balance 990 is somewhat immune to change – even with the countless memes online and remakes, like most sneakers in the footwear industry, the OG is often the best option.