Why Are New Balance the Ultimate Dad Shoe?
When I was younger, New Balance shoes were always a little plain. I always saw them as typical 90s Dad shoes, worn by men on American TV who tucked their t-shirts into their blue jeans.
Fast forward 30 years and I find myself scrolling through the New Balance online store in search of the right balance of arch support and utility, without looking like I’m trying too hard.
Has it become a bit of a cult? (In a good way! Not the “here, drink this, we’re all going to space” kind of cult). Instagram accounts like NBDrops show off the latest designs, retro throwbacks, and collector pieces to a highly engaged audience. I wasn’t even searching for it, but thanks to Instagram’s ‘if you like that, you’ll love this’ algorithm, I was served some posts that lead me down a New Balance rabbit hole.
The official New Balance Instagram account, which mostly focuses on their athletic wear occasionally pays homage to the people arguable who made the brand a mainstay of Americana, the Dads. But how does a shoe go from being synonymous with men of a certain responsibility to an iconic fashion staple?
The answer is, as always in successful brand management – know your audience.
The New Balance brand has maintained comfort over everything. While some people will choose style over function, Dads know what they want, and it isn’t fancy. We want to wear comfortable shoes that will get the job done. They have to be acceptable in most situations (to avoid the need for getting changed), look good with even our ‘going-out jeans’, and cushioned enough to relieve our achy knees when chasing our kids around the park.
While they all look different, they are similar enough that someone else can be asked to pick up a new pair of New Balance, armed only with our shoe size, and we’ll be happy with the result. There aren’t many bells and whistles, because Dads don’t want that.
The price point has to make sense as well. If the shoes we want to wear are so expensive we have to avoid getting grass stains on them from mowing the lawn, they just aren’t going to work for us. It’s easy to find them priced between $70 – $150, and that’s about as much as a shoe should cost without warranting a “back in my day…” anecdote.
So, what do you think about New Balance shoes? Are you a Dad and swear by them? Or are you a Crocs + socks kinda guy?