The New Balance 2002R revival almost never happened. Originally over budget and under appreciated by the masses, the high-end runner left as quickly as it arrived in the 2010s, before being resurrected in 2020 with a fresh new look and accessible status. In 2021, the shoe finally broke into the market via some well-placed collaborations and GRs, and this year it continues its hot streak with dozens of colours on the way. As the model continues running up in the sneakersphere, it’s time to catch up on the brief life of the 2002R so far as it continues writing its history.
The 2002 arrived in 2010 as the successor to the New Balance 2001. NB’s USA factories assembled an uncompromising package of nubuck, mesh and full-length NERGY soles borrowed from the 1906 runner. The 2002’s price was lost on the average consumer who didn’t necessarily appreciate the extra level of quality that warranted its premium price. As a result of its price point and subsequent lack of attention – not to say it didn’t have cult fans – the 2002 nearly ended up as an exorbitant footnote in NB’s back catalogue as it was phased out.
The ‘Dad Shoe’ movement of the late 2010s kicked in and shone some light on NB’s historically chunky designs. Fuelled by the potential of their archival styles to turn ironic sneaker style into a serious movement, the brand revived the 2002 – now with an R suffix – under NB’s lifestyle category. Thanks to New Balance’s Japan creative director Tetsuya Shono, the 2002R was reborn with the 860v2’s midsole, retaining NERGY where needed in the heel, and this hybrid theory sleeked out the silhouette. It was also an appropriate swap, considering the OG 2002 was also dependent on a donor sole.
While the model launched in 2020 with a number of high profile collaborations including Salehe Bembury, thisisneverthat and Invincible among others, the key to its success in 2021 was its strong general releases. Alongside exclusive JD models the New Balance 2002R is yet to reach the peak of its popularity.
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