The All-Time Greatest New Balance 990s: Part 2
Part one of Sneaker Freaker's New Balance 990 All-Time Greatest retrospective was chock-full of classics, and rightfully so: the 990 and its v2, v3 and v4 successors represent four of the best-ever NB silhouettes.
Naturally, the hits just keep on comin' with part two of the list. While part one included 1982's OG and Hanon's v2 colabs, along with a trio of German exclusives and co-branded endeavours from Stussy, Concepts, Aries, JJJJound, and Todd Snyder, part two is dominated by the v3 and v4 thanks to recent projects from Stray Rats, MADNESS, Slam Jam, No Vacancy Inn, and ULTRAOLIVE.
Peruse all of the picks below and stay tuned for more from the All-Time Greatest series.
New Balance 990v2 BON & BPN (2007)New Balance 990v2 BON & BPN (2007)
This UK-made v2 duo is a perfect showcase for why the silhouette is not only the best of the 990s, but the best 99x silhouette, period. Released way back in the latter months of 2007, the BON and BPN hit shops right around the same time and offered up the same colour-blocking scheme, along with premium leather-clad uppers and healthy doses of reflectivity. While the BON appeared in grey and black with bright orangey-yellow contrasts, the BPN rocked shades of brown with burgundy.
YCMC x New Balance 990v4 Black/Teal (2017)YCMC x New Balance 990v4 Black/Teal (2017)
990 ‘heads are suckers for unorthodox colour-blocking, and this teal-toed model is a perfect example. Released back in 2017 as a YCMC exclusive, this 990v4 stuck to the silhouette’s suede, mesh and leather build, but expertly flipped the script with teal toes and matching tongues that popped on the otherwise black execution. Surprisingly enough, these actually hit YCMC’s sale section, but typically go for well above retail these days.
New Balance 990v4 ‘Pink Ribbon’ and ‘Faded Rose’ (2018)New Balance 990v4 ‘Pink Ribbon’ and ‘Faded Rose’ (2018)
As part of the brand’s ‘Lace Up for the Cure’ initiative, New Balance released ‘Pink Ribbon’ editions of the 990v4 in 2018 to support the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s fight against breast cancer. One pair came clad in bold ‘Komen Pink’ and even sported the nonprofit’s ribbon logo – hence the name – on the lateral side of the upper near the heel. Even better, though, was the ‘Faded Rose’ colourway, which went a more subtle route with a beautiful pale pink hue.
New Balance 990v4 ‘Jupiter’ (2018)New Balance 990v4 ‘Jupiter’ (2018)
While the majority of the best-ever 990v4s are either collaborations or limited-edition drops, 2018’s ‘Jupiter’ has gone down as one of the silhouette’s GR all-timers. The design, appropriately enough, takes its name from the out-of-this-world burnt orange hue that covers the upper, which was further highlighted by all-suede construction as perforated panels replaced the runner’s prototypical mesh base.
New Balance 990v4 ‘Nimbus Cloud’ (2018)New Balance 990v4 ‘Nimbus Cloud’ (2018)
The ‘Nimbus Cloud’ was a nice little consolation prize for those that missed out on Stussy’s similar collaborative edition of the 990v4. Released in 2018, the drop is up there with the ‘Jupiter’ amongst the silhouette’s best general releases, and echoed the aforementioned streetwear stalwart’s creamy colab, but swapped out off-white tones for stark white mesh, and light grey suede.
Shoe City x EAT x New Balance 990v4 (2018)Shoe City x EAT x New Balance 990v4 (2018)
The DMV’s EAT (Elevate All the Time) label joined forces with retailer Shoe City in 2018 for yet another example of unconventional colour-blocked perfection on the beloved 990v4. Grey tones and white accents recalled NB’s signature colourways, but the obvious standout was the beautiful red, yellow and blue suede overlays that stretched from toe to heel on the upper. Not only were these colourful 990s essentially a DMV exclusive (most pairs dropped at Shoe City retail locations in DC, Baltimore and Virginia – while a few were made available via YCMC’s web store), but they were limited to just 1,000 pairs.
Stray Rats x New Balance 990v3 (2018, 2019)Stray Rats x New Balance 990v3 (2018, 2019)
Julian Consuegra’s Miami-based streetwear outfit Stray Rats took a crack at the 990v3 not once, but twice. In September 2018, the brand’s first 990v3 popped up seemingly out of nowhere and disappeared in a flash with its bright green and purple suede. The 2019 ‘Alternate’ followup is undoubtedly the better of the two, though, swapping out the original’s black base for a grey throwback to the classic NBs of old. Better yet, the second release was accompanied by a matching capsule collection that included socks, tees, sweats and shorts.
MADNESS x New Balance 990v2 (2019)MADNESS x New Balance 990v2 (2019)
Shawn Yue’s Hong Kong–based MADNESS have cooked up countless coveted colabs over the years, and 2019’s standout was the streetwear brand’s outdoorsy 990v2 duo. The colab didn’t stray too far from the prototypical 990 colourways of old, but added some retro-inspired flair with splashes of bright green and orange with trail-ready rope laces to boot.
Slam Jam x New Balance 990v3 (2019)Slam Jam x New Balance 990v3 (2019)
2019’s Slam Jam x New Balance project was intended to look like it was unfinished in the design process, but the Italian favourite called it a day on these 990v3s at the perfect moment. Up there with the best neutral-toned NBs to ever see the light of day, these are some of the cleanest 990s ever thanks to their greyscale execution. Custom Slam Jam–branded reflective laces only sweetened the deal. The commemorative drop is also likely to go down as one of the hardest-to-find NB colabs ever: the release was limited to just 89 pairs as a nod to the 30th anniversary of Slam Jam’s 1989 founding.
No Vacancy Inn x New Balance 990v3 ‘WATER and WIFI’ (2019)No Vacancy Inn x New Balance 990v3 ‘WATER and WIFI’ (2019)
Only the essentials. That was the idea behind Tremaine Emory and Acyde’s No Vacancy Inn edition of the v3, which put a ‘WATER and WIFI’ spin on the beloved 990 silhouette. Navy leather and mesh with pale blue suede made for a gorgeous combo, while bright red laces tied in to the ‘WATER’ and ‘WIFI’ embroidery on the heels.
ULTRAOLIVE x New Balance 990v3 (2019)ULTRAOLIVE x New Balance 990v3 (2019)
It’s not every day that a classic NB silhouette gets a technical overhaul, so ULTRAOLIVE’s 990v3 has quickly gone down as one of the most distinctive collaborative endeavours from New Balance. A quick glance at the colab suggests a new interpretation of the brand’s prototypical greyscale executions, but ULTRAOLIVE’s design was actually inspired by none other than Inspector Gadget. The results added breathable mesh to the mix along with bungee laces and additional reflectivity to the toe box. The addition of a removable shoe wallet further emphasised the functionality of the colab, and was a clear nod to Brooklyn-based ULTRAOLIVE’s bag-centric roots.
Header image via ULTRAOLIVE.