June 16, 2014

New Balance attempts to profit off of great American literary works with new line of sneakers


New Balance's logo has fantastic symbolism or something. Via Wikimedia.

New Balance’s logo has fantastic symbolism or something. Via Wikimedia.

Most people believe that America’s most renowned writers were satisfied with penning works that changed the literary landscape permanently. However, most people are wrong. Instead, what those authors truly desired was for a gigantic athletic apparel company to make a line of shoes in their honor. With Nike and Adidas focusing on basketball players and Reebok just kind of existing, however, that dream seemed like something of a long shot. Sometimes, though, long shots go in. New Balance has thrown down the gauntlet and stepped in to make authors’ dreams come true.

The company will be releasing three collections they claim to be inspired by American literature for its “Made in USA” line over a period of three months, beginning in July. Boston Magazine detailed the following:

“The first in the series, called the Bespoke Authors Collection, will retail at around $300, and will be available at select locations starting July 1. From there, the Distinct Authors Collection, coming in at $240, will be released in August, followed by the Connoisseur Authors Collection, with each pair costing around $150, coming out in September.”

For a collection that is claiming to follow in the great American literary tradition, they sure have named their collections poorly. First, there’s bespoke, which means something made to particular specifications or custom made—in other words, the opposite of a mass produced sneaker. Second, there’s distinct, which is ironic because grouping a country’s entire literary history into three shoe collections renders each author rather indistinct. Last, there’s connoisseur, which is a French word.

 According to Ben Cuthbert, the associate product manager for New Balance’s lifestyle department, their goal is to respect the legacies of the writers and their works “by building a collection inspired by their stories and moments.” From the pictures that Sneaker News has posted on their website, it appears that all of the aforementioned stories and moments took place in either a dense, wooded area or Ron Burgundy’s bookshelf.

While they’re referring to it as a “library like aesthetic,” to me like it’s more of a “not-actually-a-tribute-to-authors-or-their-work like aesthetic. The vast majority of them are anchored in deep, muted earth tones. The color schemes look great, they just seem to lack the component of honoring the authors for whom the collection is dedicated. It’s a great marketing pitch, but the product doesn’t even attempt to live up to the hype. It’s all flash and no substance. It’s Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby.

Also, seriously, who is going to pay $300 for a pair of New Balances?

From a practical standpoint, this was a bad idea to begin with. (Sort of like hiring Luhrmann to… you get it). Designing a collection or three of sneakers that cumulatively embodied the collective work of America’s best writers is the type of idea that people have in the middle of the night when they get up to go to the bathroom. It’s a nice thought, but probably not one worth sinking gigantic production and marketing dollars into.

Still, as far as literary footwear goes, this is probably about the best that anyone is going to get. Ignoring their utter failure to do what they set out to do and bloated price tag, a lot of the shoes have attractive color schemes and seem rather versatile. If nothing else, they’ve given Fashion students and English students something to talk about. And that probably counts for something.

But, seriously, who is going to pay $300 for a pair of New Balances?