New Balance is best known for its classic, retro styles — but none quite appealed to me the way that the brand’s reworked 550 sneaker did. Designed in partnership with longtime collaborator Aimé Leon Dore, the silhouette bears “vintage” details like a yellowed midsole and cracked leather branding without other less appealing aspects of old shoes.
Don’t get me wrong: Most of my sneakers are old, since I’ve found it easier (and cheaper) to fix up retro models than to battle bots on the SNKRS app for a new pair. Older sneakers also boast better designs, in my opinion — nobody back then cared about appealing to hypebeasts or the likes of Travis Scott. But New Balance and ALD’s vintage-esque sneakers finally offered a retro design I favored, and I didn’t have to replace the insoles or scrub them clean again.
Straight out of grandpa’s closet — Originally released in the late ‘80s, the 550 silhouette was quickly labeled defunct after its initial release. Over 30 years later, though, vintage and weathered-looking sneakers have become highly sought after, making it the perfect time for the retro shoe to make a comeback. The contrast of exclusivity and a “careless” sneaker look seems to be the ultimate definition of cool.
A classic, reimagined
In my case, the shoe was the perfect addition to my closet, which boasts vintage and grandpa-like styles. While some might not care for the 550, which resembles an orthopedic sneaker, its aged design is exactly what attracted me to it in the first place. “Dad” sneakers are too chunky for my small feet, and wearing them makes me feel like a kid walking around in, well, her father’s shoes. New Balance and Aimé Leon Dore’s 550, on the other hand, offers me a more elderly approach — its slim yet supportive design seems perfect for playing board games at a retirement home or eating dinner at 4 p.m.
The retro sneaker does offer me, a young person, the benefits of an old person shoe.
While I don’t plan on doing either, the retro sneaker does offer me, a young person, the benefits of an old person shoe. Thanks to childhood sports, I don’t have “Megan knees,” and a chronic illness blesses me with the same constant fatigue as an elderly person. Aiding both, while looking decently stylish, the 550 comes with a plush insole and added arch support — I can confidently deem them the most comfortable sneakers I own.
A timeless design — Design wise, two color schemes — a green and yellow, and a red and navy — were released by New Balance and Aimé Leon Dore. Both featured a white leather base along with details like a cracked “N” logo and yellowed midsoles.
I’m usually hesitant to wear anything red, white, and blue, particularly after 2016, but these sneakers gave off a more “classic” vibe than American one. Original design features like lateral 550 branding, a multi-colored outsole, and a vintage “N” label also made it seem like the shoes came straight out of the ‘80s — back when the American flag represented Bruce Springsteen more than it did MAGA.
Big Apple Energy
Additional branding from Aimé Leon Dore also aligns the sneaker with New York specifically. An apple graphic, altered to look like a basketball as a nod to the shoe’s basketball roots, alludes to the Big Apple. Heel graphics read “New York” if the connection isn’t clear enough.
Worth the hype — There’s not much to criticize when it comes to New Balance and Aimé Leon Dore’s 550 sneaker, other than its extremely limited supply. A few weeks after the shoe’s release, though, its resale prices have dipped to around $200 or $300 per pair — a bargain considering prices were well over $1,000 prior to the drop. Trust, you’re better off splurging on these sneakers than buying a bunch of new pairs. Unlike the latter, the 500’s simple design will be in trend years from now, and can be worn with almost anything. Plus, we doubt you wear the same size as your grandpa.