Growing up in the UK in the 1980s, soccer and trainers were the two most important things in my life. My team was Dundee United and our firm was Dundee Utility. I was what we called a ‘Casual’, which basically consisted of going to football matches and being a wee bit disruptive, to say the least. Every week we would mission out to the game, making sure we wore the best gear and had the nicest trainers on our feet.
Being a Casual was all about one-upmanship, so wearing an expensive European brand was the ultimate statement of style. But New Balance shoes were one of the most desirable footwear options, especially anything that was made in the UK. We were really proud that their factory was just down the road. The premium price tag only added to the exclusivity.
New Balance was always unique in my eyes. Their approach was a big reason why I gravitated towards the brand. Back in the day, proper athletic trainers were only available in sporting retailers, but New Balance was sold in shops alongside jeans and outerwear. That’s pretty normal these days, but it certainly made a difference to how we saw things back then.
To me, New Balance feels like an old friend. They’ve never come across as a big corporate giant. It’s a brand that I can relate to personally. Their focus on craftsmanship and quality has resulted in some of the best footwear designs ever. I remember when they came out with trail running shoes for the first time and how different they looked to everything else. As a lad, the first notable pair I remember having was a pair of navy 576. Unfortunately, my friend already had them so I did that embarrassing thing where you buy the same shoes as your mate. He was none too pleased about it to be honest!
That’s the thing about trainers. Each pair I own reminds me of a different stage of my life. They bring back memories of travelling and spark a sense of nostalgia. When I’m wearing a nice pair, it’s an emotional feeling that’s hard to describe. I’ve been collecting sneakers for over 25 years now, and I’ve probably only sold two pairs in that time. That’s not what it’s about for me. I don’t honestly know if I understand why I collect so much stuff. I just do. I also have loads of stuff from the 80s. My connection to Dundee and the brands that were great in my formative years will never disappear.
About ten years ago I moved to New Zealand and started doing some work with New Balance. It was just as the 574 was becoming a big part of their heritage lineup again. I don’t actually remember exactly when I started, but I just began accumulating 574s. The majority of my collection is still the Made in UK range, but the 574 obsession gradually just took over. Next thing you know I have an entire room in my house dedicated to the damn shoe!
I think the 574 works best in New Balance heritage tones like grey, burgundy and navy. Suede and mesh is still the ultimate combination of materials. Purists might scoff and say they would rather have a pair made in the UK or the USA, but not everyone is fussed about that level of detail and expense. And while I like the simple colourways best, I have most of the collaborations in my collection – the ‘Mojito’ by mita sneakers and the Shelflife ‘City of Gold’ edition from Cape Town etc. The ‘Rainbow’ and ‘Year of the Snake’ packs are pretty wild so I don’t wear them all that often. The Asia-exclusive ‘Dragon and Shogun’ pack from 2007 is pretty special – the detailing and embroidery are next level.
The thing about the 574 is that it’s pure New Balance. It’s comfortable, easy to wear, versatile. The original 574 shape is totally iconic. I’ll wear a clean pair of grey suede 574s anywhere, anytime, at any age. They’ll never get old. But if I had to pick a favourite, it’d have to be the 2018 reissue. It’s the perfect shape. The 574 brings New Balance DNA to everyone. No wonder it’s the bestselling New Balance shoe of all time!
The 574 range is available now online from New Balance.