A month or so ago, my friend Mike West asked if I could come down to Dodger stadium in early January for a special industry event. I just assumed it had something to do with 686, his snow apparel brand; but I was wrong for once in my life. It was to officially unveil New Balance Numeric, their brand new skate footwear division.
That’s Mike on the left, with Marat and Brandon of Hypebeast.
I also ate lunch with KB of UNDFTD.
Turns out that there were non-Asians there as well, like Steve Malbon of Frank 151.
So this is the big news. New Balance is jumping into the skate game feet-first (pun intended, duh), swimming alongside other athletic shoe giants already making waves in the deep end (see what I did there?) like Nike, Converse, and Adidas.
Mike was a competitive runner back in the ’70s, so with his skate background in the ’80s and accompanying industry experience, he partnered up with Jamie Thomas (Blackbox) to distribute New Balance Numeric. Mike had already been through successful collaborations with both New Balance and Jamie, so the three-way was a neatly organic collaboration.
One of the most interesting attributes of New Balance’s skate footwear line (to the nerd in me) is that they are going beyond their traditional numbering system and giving the models actual names (inspired by Bostonian terms). There are 4 styles hitting shelves later this year: The Logan, Stratford, Brighton, and the Quincy.
This one’s the Brighton:
The full roster:
And here are the rest, up close and personal.
This is your first look at New Balance skateboarding shoes.
Thoughts? (I already see an active discussion over on my Instagram post from the press conference).
Does skateboarding need another athletic shoe corporation involved? New Balance has a rabid cult fanbase (as Nike did before they introduced SB), will Numeric be able to pull in some of that following? Can NB contribute something that Nike, Adidas, and Cons can’t fulfill? And as New Balance announces PJ Ladd as their first rider, how important will it be for them – both credibility and marketing-wise – to have the right team? All big questions that can only be answered with speculation for the time being, which is also convenient as the Agenda show opens this morning in Long Beach. I’m sure this will be on the tips of most tongues in the action sports industry over the next few days, months, and year.
My thoughts? Well, I’m sure you’ve already read some of my sentiments regarding Nike’s intersection with skateboarding, and my general thinkings on the state of $kateboarding today, so you can probably guess where I’m leaning. At this point, however, all the power to New Balance. If this is what Skateboarding wants, then this is what Skateboarding will get. Supply and demand, basic economics. It’s up to Skateboarders to determine if Numeric thrives or dives, it’s up to Skateboarders to determine what Skateboarding will be.
Jamie Thomas alluded to it in his own introduction, on how much Skate has changed, especially in the past 5 years. And it will continue to do so, as that is it’s very nature. Change. If you want something stagnant and stuck, you can move to the slow shoulder with the other dinosaurs.