The New Balance 550 is nowadays a staple of the Boston brand’s offering. With collaborations from the likes of Comme des Garçons Homme, Japanese brand AURALEE and UK retailer size?, the 550 has found a style conscious, Insta-ready audience. But it wasn’t always so.
Originally released in 1989 and designed by legendary sneaker architect Steven Smith, the New Balance 550 was produced as a low-top court-ready basketball shoe. But due to lack of innovative features or big-name athlete wearers, the 550 fell into obscurity.
The smart-looking court sneaker was rediscovered and revitalized in the last five years by designer Teddy Santis and a collaboration with his brand Aimé Leon Dore. With tons of colorways and styles to choose from, New Balance has now issued a Hemp version.
It’s a super clean looking neutral kick, with varying tones and layers of white and beige. The textured hemp panels are contrasted with black embroidered details such as the iconic “N” and “NB” motifs, and the “550” stitching on the side. Cream-colored soles give it a strong foundation. It looks like a really versatile summer shoe that’ll slip into any outfit without too much hassle.
The latest info on the sneaker states that it features “textile hemp uppers with mesh tongues and matching suede elements.” Whilst the use of hemp is welcomed, we question the use of suede (which we assume is animal-derived). We saw something similar with the release of Maharishi and Reebok’s LT Court Hemp, which also featured the natural fiber combined with leather. It seems like a shame not to go full hemp with this. Hemp is a fascinating material that seems to look after the environment it’s grown in. It doesn’t need pesticides to grow and once harvested, its decomposed roots also enrich and strengthen the soil in which it grew.
Whilst the 550 Hemp is a neutral-looking shoe, we’d like New Balance to be less neutral in its stance on animal-derived materials, and resist falling back on products like suede in a natural fiber sneaker.
The New Balance 550 Hemp is set to release in the coming weeks via New Balance, and will come in at $120 USD. Or, if you’re looking for a fully vegan-friendly New Balance kick, check out last year’s 990v5.