Craftsmanship, comfort and heritage – the make-up of New Balance, what they stand for and what they frequently achieve. The profound aspect of the Boston-based brand is their unequivocal rise through time, consistently hitting spots in the market with sneakers that work for everyone. The centrepiece of this unfolds from the pillar of the 990 series, and its ability to turn reinvention into revolution.

Looking at the 990 series of late, it has arguably been the finest time for the brand. A period that has attracted a wealth of newfound customers, collaborators and a whole host of reworked silhouettes. From Stüssy, JJJound to Aime Leon Dore and Levis Strauss & Co, the 990 series has plunged New Balance’s sporting framework into the contemporary fashion sphere with no signs of stopping anytime soon. But to make this mark, such predecessors before this period had to create the story, build from the ground up and charge headfirst into the highly competitive sneaker market with ounces of hope and a relatively unknown assumption of how things would pan out. In this case it worked. Better than anyone expected.

The initial inception of the famed franchise hit the shelves in 1982. At the time it was the most expensive sneaker released by New Balance, so if that wasn’t a statement, being the first out of the gates added an extra sense of nerves to those behind it. The New Balance 990v1 was like nothing that had come before, the desire of the brand was to "develop the very best running shoe they were capable of", combining New Balance’s latest technology with Made in USA craftsmanship. The 990v1’s monetary inaccessibly and enhanced performance nuance made it more desirable, whether you were a serious runner or looking to invest.

It wasn't until 16 years later that New Balance updated the 990 series. Next in line was the 990v2. Divergent in design, indulgent in new technology and a fresh face of suede, the 990v2 was a step forward and step up for the 990 series. Technical innovation arrived in the form of repurposed uppers and sole-injected ABZORB technology – consisting of foam cushioning and compression, for optimised shock absorption. Slip-resistant rubber spanned across the ENCAP sole unit to combine with the sneaker's soft, but durable suede uppers. This wasn't like anything they had done before, although the successor to the 990v1, the 990v2 signified a polarity between the two, showcasing the progression of New Balance's modernisation over the last 16 years. For those 16 years when the 990 series was non-existent, New Balance continued in the intervening period with models from the 995 all the up to the 999. Essential to the 990 series' newest execution, time had passed, technology had advanced and the next in line was in the waiting.

To this date the 16-year gap between the 990v1 and the 990v2 has been the biggest in the series. From 1982 to 1998, the world was in a state of evolvement, towns were becoming cities and technical powerhouses were being formed. The internet was conceived, email was connecting the world from opposite ends and Google was a fresh concept, arriving the same year as the 990v2. But why did New Balance wait so long between the two? The wait was paired with research and development, progression in technology and the ability to touch point into never-done-before aesthetics. New Balance had tried and tested such improvements in the interim period with other contemporary models similar to the 990v2. Making a strive for change, switching up their game and entering a new fold of design was the outcome. This prolonged absence from the 990 series was paramount to the execution of the 990v2 and without it, it begs the question - would the 990 series be where it is today?

"Established new design formula for future iterations" - the mantra behind the 1998 edition, emblazoned on all New Balance’s 990v2 adverts at the time. The sneaker arrived as a somewhat suggestive statement of intent from New Balance; to push forward design for the next catalogue of silhouettes. The introduction of the silhouette in 1998 was somewhat admirable and timely, paving the path and without it, would the 990 series be held in such high regard? Would the v3, v4, v5 and next year’s v6 be possible? That’s not for us to answer. But what we do know is that is changed the course of New Balance, giving the brand a formula for the future.

Fast forward to 2021 and New Balance are gearing up to re-release the original in the wake of the 990 series’ 40th anniversary next year. Adorned in the brand’s ever-represent grey glory and suede accents, the 990v2’s innovative touches are still present to this day and remain as important as ever. Whether or not it stands on the podium with its peers or not often shouted about, the New Balance 990v2 is the unassuming face of change for the series and the backbone to its ascendancy.

The New Balance 990v2 is available to register to purchase on SEVENSTORE Launches now.

Artwork by Callum Abbott