Sneaker Duel is dedicated to the sneakerheads, their long-standing devotion to sneakers, and their inner-battles with the industry's endless slew of releases. For the first installment, we talk to Richie Roxas, otherwise @newbalance365, who has been collecting New Balances since 1994. Based in Philadelphia, Roxas has amassed over 600 pairs of NB, one of the biggest collections known to date.
What is your connection with the New Balance brand? Your earliest memory.
It's hard to remember my first memory with New Balance. I was first interested in sneakers around 1992. The rich kids in school had Jordans and Air Maxes, and I was very jealous. I remember going into the mall to look at and admire the shoes that my parents could not afford to get for me. New Balance was not very popular and was always displayed in the corner with the Asics and Saucony. Around this time, I probably thought those brands were corny and ugly.
Around 1994 I started going to hardcore and punk shows, and I always looked up to the older guys in the scene that were cool and had dope style. That might've been the first time I saw New Balance rocked by people that were cool and not runners or old guys. I remember seeing guys in the mosh pit with 574s, 996s, 1300s, MT580s etc. At this time, I also had my first job making minimum wage at a movie theater, so I was able to buy my own clothes and sneakers.
My first pair of New Balance was the 496 because it was only $40 and the cheapest NB at the time. NBs were always the most expensive shoes on the wall in the store, and it seemed only serious runners were into them, and just a handful of people rocked them for style. I fell in love with the 496 and with New Balance, so I started saving money to buy the most expensive New Balance, which was the 1600. It was $180 at retail price. The 1600 was not only the most expensive NB, but the most expensive sneaker among all the brands and models. It took me a while to save for them, and I eventually got a pair.
So my first pair was the cheapest and my second pair was the most expensive! I started collecting other NB models from that point until today.
What is your most prized pair of New Balance?
My most prized New Balance is probably the 1500 I designed and made into a one-of-one pair for myself. I was invited to the NB factory in Flimby, UK, for their 35th Anniversary. I and some other collectors each designed a shoe and got to see them produced by hand. My 1500 has the typical grey and blue that NB is known for. But I threw in some accents of black and yellow, which is in reference to the Hacienda nightclub from their nearby city of Manchester. The Hacienda closed in 1997, but it was also the 35th Anniversary of when it first opened, so I combined both themes into one shoe.
It was a dream come true to have the opportunity to have a shoe made that I designed. I have some extra pieces left over from that trip and am looking to get a second pair of my shoe made soon.
What would you say are the key differences between someone who specifically collects NB versus an overall sneakerhead?
I'm not too sure what the differences between a typical "sneakerhead" and someone who collects NB are. I'm not too involved with or know too much about what "sneakerheads" are into. I was never into Nikes, Jordans, or Yeezys, and I don't pay too much attention to that stuff. Also, a lot of people who used to be into that stuff are now migrating over into collecting New Balances, so I think there is less of a distinction now than there used to be. Ten to twenty years ago, people really loved New Balance for its craftsmanship, quality, and timeless looks. Nowadays, it seems that a lot of NB fans aren't necessarily aware of their quality and just go for whatever looks cool or is hyped up. There is definitely more re-selling going on amongst NBs lately, too, which wasn't really a thing NB collectors had to worry about before.
How has it affected you?
It has made it annoying for me and other collectors that actually want the shoes for themselves and for actual wearing instead of just as a form of currency.
Given NB's rise in popularity, how has collecting changed from when you started?
Collecting NBs now is different than before. I mainly focus on vintage or original models, which used to be pretty cheap, but some of those shoes have gone up in price. As far as buying current models, you have to be quick if it is something that is hyped up or pushed by marketing because it will sell out quickly. Buying NBs now has the same pitfalls as any other brands: limited quantity, rising prices, greedy resellers, etc.
Richie Roxas VS. New Balance
Below we have Roxas rate New Balance's 2022 drops so far, from their appearance (look), texture and comfort (feel), to whether they're worth the price (value).
Joe Freshgoods 550
I'm not a huge fan of the 550. It's a good shoe, but there isn't anything particularly special that stands out about the design, and it's very similar to other shoes from the same era. I don't find the 550 that comfortable either. As for this particular collab, I love the crazy color and canvas material. I was able to see a pair in person, and pictures do not do this shoe justice to how crazy the yellow is in real life. On the downside, that canvas will be tough to keep clean after a few wears. If you're a 550 fan and can pull off crazy colors with your style, then this is a shoe you might want.
Look ★★★☆☆ Feel ★★☆☆☆ Value ★★★☆☆
Joe Freshgoods 2002R
In this pack, I much preferred the 2002R because I love that model. Even though the current 2002R doesn't have the original midsole, it is still a super awesome, affordable, and comfortable model. I love the mix of whites, creams, yellows, and oranges. My only complaint is why they would use blue on the tongue label and midsole text but then outline the N logo in black. That just seems random and doesn't tie the shoe together very well. Other than that, this is a very solid collab, in my opinion.
Look ★★★★☆ Feel ★★★★☆ Value ★★★★☆
Joe Freshgoods 9060
I don't think this shoe is for me, but I don't hate it. I love the current hybrid chunky midsole mixed with a classic 990ish-looking upper. I'm not sure if I would ever buy a pair or wear it, but I could see this looking really good on other people. I don't want to pass full judgment without seeing a pair in person and I wonder how comfortable they are.
Look ★★★☆☆ Feel ★★★☆☆ Value ★★★☆☆
Salehe Bembury 574 YURT
This is another shoe that I cannot get into. I tried on a pair, and they just looked bad on me because I'm a pretty small guy. I've seen them look really good on taller or bigger people. The colorways are pretty good. And again, I like that part of the shoe has that classic NB 990ish DNA involved in the upper. It's just too much chunk in the midsole for me. That is also one of NB's most aggressive Rollbars I've ever seen. I can't see that being comfortable if worn for an entire day. I'm kind of mixed on the actual whistle part. It's sort of ridiculous, but I also like the novelty aspect of it. You can't say it's ever been done before, so it's definitely a first.
Look ★★★☆☆ Feel ★★☆☆☆ Value ★★★☆☆
Teddy Santis' MADE in USA
Ok, now this is more my speed; classic models with updated, but still classic, colorways and materials. You can't beat grey suede with mesh NBs. I love the touch of greens, tans, and blacks — very well-balanced color blocking here. I really wanted the v3, but it sold out too fast. I was able to get a v2. The v1 is my least favorite in this pack, but I do love it. Teddy Santis really knocked this out of the park. He successfully combined the original NB aesthetic and kept it relevant and fresh for both old and new NB fans.
Look ★★★★☆ Feel ★★★★☆ Value ★★★★☆
Protection Pack 2002R
I love the 2002R, even though it doesn't have the original midsole. I don't love the Protection Pack series, but I don't hate it either. It looks a bit too ripped up or beat up for me, but I love how they took this in a wild direction and rolled with it. It is different for sure but good for those looking for something interesting and wild. The colorways are all pretty solid. I didn't think these would be as popular or hyped as they ended up being.
Look ★★★☆☆ Feel ★★★★☆ Value ★★★★☆
Which pair is the most wearable?
For me, the most wearable of the above pairs is the Teddy Santis MADE in USA line. Anyone from any background can pull these off. It's not limited to one or two styles or ages. People from all walks of life can enjoy these and look great in them.
What is your dream New Balance collaboration?
If I had my own collab with New Balance, I would design 13 pairs of the 1300s, with one pair to be released monthly for 13 months. Another dream would be for NB to collab with Vox guitar amps. The shoe would feature Vox's signature grill cloth material.