New Balance has achieved the mass cultural cache in which it doesn’t need a collaboration to churn out a highly sought-after sneaker. Perhaps the best example of the brand’s in-house capabilities is last year’s “Protection Pack,” which saw the 2002R silhouette given a pre-distressed makeover. The decaying aesthetic worked terrifically on muted colors, and now it’s set to make a return in much more vibrant hues.
The 2002R “Protection Pack” has been confirmed in three new colors, with two additional variants also popping up early in the leak process. "Vintage Orange," "Steel Blue," and "Dark Navy" 2002Rs all have official nicknames and are slated for an April 1 release that’s no joke. The rusty orange version is easily the standout of the confirmed trio, but purple and pink joints coming down the pipeline also give it serious competition for the supreme color scheme.
Each pair of kicks from the 2002R “Protection Pack” will retail for $150, and resale for the previous releases is hovering around a two-fold increase. In other words, you’ll want to be hawkish in your pursuit of the pre-distressed sneakers, which look to be among the best in-houses releases from any brand this year.
A brief history of the 2002R — Despite what the name suggests, New Balance first released the 2002 sneaker in 2010 as a successor to the 2001. The silhouette was far from a hit, though, and few consumers were ready to shell out the $250 commanded by the use of premium materials and manufacturing in the U.S.
The silhouette easily could have fallen into obscurity, but the recent dad shoe trend prompted New Balance to bring it back slightly tinkered as the 2002R. A midsole from the 860 v2 was swapped in, and production was moved to Asia to drive down the cost. A series of high-profile collaborations then helped usher in fanfare that the sneaker had never enjoyed before, most prominently the Salehe Bembury “Let Water Be Your Guide” version widely considered one of the best releases of 2021.
Now, the “Protection Pack” and its Daniel Arsham-esque sense of decay is only helping the 2002R to win over the hearts of more sneakerheads. The first three of the 2022 editions have been confirmed to release April 1 through European retailer AFEW, but more retailers are likely to be announced as the date comes closer. You can also expect to see a whole lot of the orange, pink, and purple versions on TikTok and Instagram as it becomes a tastemaker’s favorite.