New Balance 577NGO "The Napes"

Over at New Balance Gallery, I took a look at the Made in UK New Balance 577 "The Napes" Pack, and you can check it out here, but I took a few extra shots of the shoe, so I wanted to do a post on here with them all. A big big thanks to NB UK for the kind gift!

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Each pair also comes with a really great booklet which provides a look at both the shoes, as well as a history of the Napes Needle.

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New Balance Real Ale Event

The last Wednesday of July, as NB Gallery, we headed to Cockermouth, a town in Cumbria, England, for the official global launch of the New Balance Real Ale Pack, and boy was it good. The hospitality over the few days that we were there was absolutely faultless, big big shout to all those involved for nailing the event. The plan was to arrive in Cockermouth and check into the Allerdale Court Hotel, easily one of the nicest hotels I've stayed in - rooms, bar, breakfast, and staff all excellent, and in the perfect spot in this lovely Lake District town. Fashionably late, we arrived, checked in, and were greeted by a NB Welcome Pack filled with goodies, such as a pair of the Real Ale CT300's, beer mats, ale, NB USB, and our intinerary for the next few days.

We then made our way up the road to the Trout Hotel, where there was a buffet and drinks laid on in the Derwent Restaurant, and we caught up with old faces, and met plenty of new ones, and talked footwear, and drank beer into the early hours of the morning.

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Sucking it up the next morning, with a bottle of water in hand, we passed on the morning run as sport and hangovers don't mix, and instead chilled with some breakfast before being picked up outside our hotel by an amazing vintage styled bus which would take us to the New Balance Flimby Factory. Upon arriving at the Flimby Factory, we were taken to the conference room were the Real Ale Pack was on display, along with some of the team's favourite past NB releases. We watched the Real Ale Pack promotion video, and then were taken on a guided tour of the factory, which will never ever not be amazing.

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Upon completion of the factory tour, we were treated to a question and answer session with some of the NB team, again, just one of the amazing things on the intinerary. It's always great to get the opportunity to ask these guys questions, and gain an insight into what they get up to working for NB.

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To conclude the morning, a quick jaunt in the factory shop, before hopping back on the bus and heading to the Bitter End Pub in Cockermouth for some lunch!

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Treated to fish and chips at the quaint little Bitter End Pub up a tight side street in Cockermouth, we then took the opportunity to grab ourselves one of the allotted times to have some personal one-to-one interview time with the NB team at the Allerdale Court Hotel. Myself and Arek of Suede&Mesh came together for our interview slot, and you can find the full write up of the interview here.

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As myself, Rob, and Arek managed to secure the 1500, 576, and CT300, we decided to go explore Cockermouth a little to find some nice spots to take some shots of the pack, and you can see these shots below.

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So you're wondering where the Real Ale part of the pack comes in, right? Well, Thursday evening was set aside to head over to Jennings Brewery where we were given a guided tour of the brewery and learned how traditional British ale is brewed. A big shout out has to go to our guide Sharon, who was both extremely knowledgeable and welcoming throughout, awesome job.

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What is there to do after a guided tour of a brewery? Well, eat some food and try out the ale that is brewed there, served straight out of the Ale Bar at Jennings.

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I must admit, when I first seen the itinerary for the event, one of the things I was looking forward to the most was the NB Pub Quiz. Honestly, I'm not competitive, I swear... After being cheated out (not really) of a 'who can lace the shoe the fastest' competition (mine were perfect, no joke), it was time for our 'NB Gallery' round. In all honesty, our questions were both a little ridiculous and a little hard, but it made for good entertainment anyway. The scores were totalled up, and our team, the 'Chosen Few' were overall winners, with only something like three points separating the teams. We were presented with this lovely engraved tankard, a really neat prize for sure. Big shout to the quiz master Joe who done a solid job!

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More beer and laughs followed, and then sadly it was time to depart Jennings Brewery, but we headed back to the Trout Hotel to continue where we left off.

It has to be said, New Balance really know how to put on an event. Some of the best people, plenty of food and drink, too many laughs, and just excellent hospitality all round. Big props to all those involved!

New Balance x Size? - Collaboration History

Size? was founded in 2000, and since then, they have become a household name, and have at least one store in every major city you could think of in the UK, along with expanding overseas last year into places such as Amsterdam, Paris, and Milan. With their growth, obviously comes power, and that's not necessarily a bad thing, especially when it sees Size? being at the forefront of working with brands to dive into their archives and bring out retros/reissues of your favourite footwear models. Most people know Size? for the vast amount of footwear, clothing and accessories that they sell in their stores, and on their large online store, however, every now and then, Size? collaborate with brands on all of these things, and in the early 2000's, they developed a pretty special relationship with the UK's own division of New Balance.

This post will take a look into the collaboration history between New Balance and Size?, however, the further back we go, to their first lot of collaborations it's really tough to get good information as there is little to none on the internet, and unless you were around at the time, it's pretty much impossible to source the information and pictures needed.

Luckily, if you dig hard enough, there are various pictures around, and these rare pairs pop up on social media now and again which is great to see. Also, I know some pretty great people who have vast amounts of knowledge from this time so they were a huge help.

Anyway, in the early 2000's, this was a time when New Balance collaborations, particularly Made in England pairs, were of a level of quality that will probably never be reached again. There is just such a vast amount of amazing colourways out there that also used some pretty exceptional and unique materials, and this is something that set NB apart from every other brand, and one of the reasons why I take such an interest in the brand.

There's no better example of the excellent work that the Flimby factory do than these early Size? collaborations, and credit to the people at Size? who came up with the colourways and material selections.

2005 - New Balance x Size? 577

This set of 4 pairs of 577 uses some of the best leather and suede around at the time, and comes in four simple, but yet stunning colourways.

The first is the New Balance 577ASZ, and is probably the rarest of the four now, as it never really gets seen these days. It has a predominantly leather burgundy/maroon upper with grey suede accents, and features perforated leather on the toebox.

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Image from NetForest

The second pair from the set is the New Balance 577BSZ, which uses various shades of brown leather and suede, again featuring a perforated toebox.

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Image from NetForest

Third up is the New Balance 577GSZ, again utilising premium leather on the predominantly green upper, with some clean white perforated leather on the toebox to finish it off.

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Image from XMode

Last but not least from this set is the New Balance 577SSZ, and is probably one of the pairs that we see the most from this pack. This pair features a mainly light blue upper with some dark blue and off-white coloured accents, and keeping in with the tradition, it has a perforated toebox but also has a gum outsole, which is something the others don't have.

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Image from NetForest

2006 - New Balance x Size? 577 'coup d'eclat'

New Balance was founded in 1906 as ‘New Balance Arch Support Company’ and when 2006 came around, it was time to celebrate New Balance’s 100 year anniversary. For this celebration it was inevitable that NB were to produce a good few limited edition pairs of shoes, and along with the three limited edition trainers to honour it’s three longest serving employees; Audrey Stewart, Ian Byers and Victor Dixon, there were also to be a run of New Balance x Size? collaborations.

Much like the collaboration in 2005, these are some of the best pairs to ever come from Flimby, and Size? excelled in utilising the black midsole, something which has only been done well very few times.

Below is a picture of the 5 shoes taken from the All Gone 2006 book:

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Below is a picture of the invitation that was given out for the special instore launch of the New Balance x Size? 577 release in 2006.

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There were 50 pairs which came with a larger special box which housed the standard Made in England New Balance box, and it is pictured below. They also came with miniature versions of the shoes and box, as well as special t-shirts made for the release and these were only available at the instore event at Size? Carnaby Street.

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Size? and New Balance created a pretty amazing pack named the 'coup d'eclat' and it was spread over several months throughout 2006. Each pair from the pack was based around a black and orange midsole, which is why these two colours are so prevalent throughout the uppers on each pair.

Each shoe used a mix of vibrant colours and some of the most premium materials available, including suede, mesh, and camo print leather.

As well as the release dates for the shoes being staggered throughout the year, they also had different quantities, which were all extremely limited.

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The first release was in June of 2006, and it featured 4 colourways; BGO, BGW, BWB, and PGB.

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Every shoe in the pack stands out on it's own, but the New Balance 577BGO is particularly great because of the camo leather on the upper, and this pair was limited to 120 pairs.

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Image from Skit Blog

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The New Balance 577BGW was meant to be limited to 90 pairs, and was designed by Matt Taylor, but the story goes that when they visited the Flimby factory, they chose some colours that were near the end of their rolls, so fewer pairs were made than planned.

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Image from Kicksaholic

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Thirdly, the New Balance 577BWB seen a release limited to only 70 pairs, and was the second most limited out of both drops.

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Image from Kicksaholic

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Last but not least from the first drop, the New Balance 577PGB designed by John Brotherhood was the most limited of all the drops in 2006 as it was limited to only 60 pairs.

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Image from Kicksaholic

Second Release -

Following on from the first drop, the second drop featuring two pairs of 577 was released in November, and both these pairs were limited to 75 pairs each.

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Image from Kicksaholic

New Balance 577GOW -

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Image from Kicksaholic

2007 - New Balance x Size? 577 'Fruity Clerks Pack'

Back again with more 577's, one of the most iconic UK Made models, and this time, this pack features some very fruity designs, with an array of pinks, purples and cyan teamed with a splattered midsole.  The shoes feature faux reptile skin on the upper, teamed with lush suede and perforated suede or perforated leather on the toebox.

The shoes were designed with old school fruit machines in mind, think one-arm bandits, bright flashing lights and 3 fruit jackpots of Plums, Strawberries and Bells. The colour scheme is no gamble (excuse the pun), and it was styled by one of the Size? crew from the Birmingham store.

Both colourways were limited to 250 pairs, and there were also matching New Era caps for both colorways, which were only available instore. The shoes also came with matching keyrings, check them out in the pictures below.

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Images from Kicksaholic

That wasn't all though, along with the release of the 'Fruity Clerks Pack' came another shoe, and probably the most elusive of all Size? collaborations, and maybe even New Balance UK collaborations - the 'Jackpot' 577.

The 'Jackpot' 577 were made exclusively for a competition and limited to only 4 pairs. Along with the 'Jackpot' 577, the first prize winner will take home one of the 2 New Balance Fruit Machines that were installed in Size? Carnaby Street and Covent Garden Stores at the time of release, and the second prize will win a pair of the Jackpot 577 shoes.

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Images via Highsnobiety

2010 - New Balance x Size? 577 'Estates Pack'

The New Balance x Size? 577 'Estates Pack' was brought out in 2010 to celebrate the stores 10 years anniversary, and the pack draws inspiration from the gradual transition of practical rural fashion into a modern trend in the city.

The first pair from the pack is the New Balance 577LQ -

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This shoe pays tribute to the modern city gents adaptation of traditional rural wear with a premium black leather and suede upper, mixed together with a woven quilter toebox and heel support.

The second pair from the pack is the New Balance 577CW -

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Images from Nice Kicks

This pairs comes in a mix of dark green, brown with popping orange accents in a leather and mesh upper, and the shoe is inspired by rural British fashion worn by city dwellers.

Both pairs are sat on a clean white traditional ENCAP midsole, and have a gum outsole. They also have a woven brand tab sewn onto the tongue and it transforms the style number into roman numerals (DLXXVII = 577) with 'shoe maketh the man' in Latin underneath the crest. As always, a shoe isn't really complete without a little bit of 3M, and this comes in the form of the N backer for both pairs. Limited to 250 pairs each.

2012 - New Balance x Staple Design x Size? 577 'Black Pigeon'

Staple Design aren't new to collaborating with New Balance, and neither are Size?, so when these two came together, we expected something special, but we're not exactly sure that these shoes lived up to that expectation.

Nevertheless, both Size? and Staple Design reworked a 577, a model which Size? have became so well known for collaborating on. This Made in England 577 came in a year that was celebrating 30 years of manufacturing at Flimby, and as always, this shoe features only the most premium of materials.

With the 'Black Pigeon' toughened up on his travels, the shoe features a heavy-duty construction with a honeycombed rip stop nylon toe-box and robust leather upper. Not forgetting the creature comforts, a soft pink felt lines the inner and adds extra warmth.
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Image from Proper Mag
2014 - New Balance x Size? Made in USA 574 'Harrods Exclusive'
Over the last few years, it probably felt like there was a Size? store popping up in every UK city, and even expanding abroad into other countries, a true testament to the size at which the retailer has grown. So, on that note, to mark the occasion of Size? opening their first pop-up in the world famous Harrods department store, they once again teamed up with New Balance, but this time, they created two Made in USA 574's.
The pack was inspired by Harrods' colourful food hall, and we see two bright colourways of the premium suede and mesh US574's. One of which has a Miami Dolphins-esque colourway of teal and orange, with hits of pink and grey, while the other has the inverse - grey and pink, with orange and teal accents.
Both colorways will only be available in a run of just 12 pairs each, making these some of the most exclusive New Balance collaborations yet. However, it was possible to create extremely similar colourways via the NB USA custom site if you happened to miss out and desired a pair of 574's in either of these colourways.
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Image from Hypebeast

New Balance 576NGA + SGA "20th Anniversary"

It goes without saying that the New Balance 576 is one of the classics, and in 2008 the shoe turned 20 years old. Since it's inception in 1988, the shoe was produced in the UK, and to celebrate, New Balance produced two pairs of 576 in their vintage original versions;

When we think of New Balance, we think of colours like grey and navy, and materials like suede and mesh, all of which are timeless. The New Balance 576 20th Anniversary pairs came in both navy and grey, paired with the original sole unit from 1988 to give it that original feel.

Both the New Balance 576NGA and 576SGA are a must in any collection, those colourways are just perfect. The soft mesh, lush suede, luxurious leather lining, pebbled style heel tab, original style sole unit, and that faded heel counter all come together to make two excellent pairs of shoes.

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Private Preview of the New Balance 1500FPK x Footpatrol 'Encyclopaedia'

It seems like every week there are at least 5+ collaborations releasing, and I'm sure you'll agree, it's pretty hard to keep up, but Made in UK New Balance collaborations are few and far between these days, so when one of them come along, there's always quite a bit of excitement surrounding it. Then when you throw in UK heavyweights Footpatrol from London, the anticipation for this collaboration was only ever going to increase! Before I get into the private preview of the shoe, let's take a look at the Footpatrol images of the New Balance 1500FPK, along with some details about the collaboration.

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The release has been dubbed 'Encyclopaedia', and the tagline 'Knowledge is Key' has accompanied the collaboration since the first few teaser images were released. Footpatrol have came together with New Balance UK to pay homage to arguably the most informative and detailed reference source - the Britannica Encyclopaedia.

The Britannica Encyclopaedia was first published in 1768, and was produced in fifteen editions until it's present physical volume in 2012, and this shoe uses this source of knowledge as it's inspiration. If you look at the shoe, and then look at the Britannica Encyclopaedia pictured, it's clear that the people of Footpatrol and New Balance have worked extremely hard to execute this concept to the highest of standards.

The New Balance 1500FPK has a screams premium at first glance, with it's predominantly black upper, decked out in only the best materials, with plush suede on the toe wrap and ankle sections, complimented by some smooth black leather across the toe box, side panels and tongue. Some contrast gold detailing comes in the form of the embroidery on the tongue, heel logo and of course the traditional small single embroidered 'N' logo on the lateral side. The heel logo on the medial side features a blacked out double embroidered 'N' logo, which is a really nice touch. There is also an embroidered tab on the rear of the tongue, which features an illustration of a book with the tagline 'Knowledge is Key', while the insole takes elements from some of the content found in the Encyclopaedia, in an off white colour with an anatomical illustration of the human foot. It doesn't end there though, as no shoe is complete without some reflectiveness in my opinion, and this comes in the form of the reflective piping around the ankle collar.

You'd think we'd be finished by now on the detailing front, right? But no, adding to the already class details, the shoe is sat on top of an off-white midsole, and has everyone's favourite gum coloured outsole. As a little reminder as to who the brains are behind this collaboration, the famous Footpatrol gas mask comes in a black and gold swing tag. Finally the vibrant Red New Balance logo situated on the heel and the outsole is a nod to both the bookmarker found in the reference book and the flagship colour used on the NB logo.

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With the release set for Saturday 24th January, Footpatrol and New Balance personally selected a small number of people, mainly press and loyal customers to join them for a special preview of the Footpatrol Encyclopaedia 'Knowledge is Key' 1500. The event took place at the stunning Library on St. Martin's Lane, an exclusive private members club just off London's famous Leicester Square, and this is where the original shots featured above were taken.

Here we would also be treated to a personal Q+A with the New Balance team - Tom Henshaw, Andy Okolowicz, Chris Hodgson, and Jamie Metcalfe, as well as an insight into the Footpatrol shoe, while being able to indulge in some fine food and drink. It's quite rare to be treated to events of this form, as usually it's just a case of a venue with some music and lots and lots of beer, but the efforts that both NB and Team FP went to organise this classy event fits in with the whole theme of the collaboration perfectly.

When we talk about New Balance, and discuss things online, a lot of the information is taken from various websites, or stuff you've picked up through the years, but to be sat down with people like Chris and Andy, and be able to tap into their comprehensive knowledge of all things NB, whether it's creative or technical, it really is quite something. Hats off to Jimmy and the rest of Team Footpatrol too, who were more than happy to discuss any aspect of their great project, and obviously like us who were just grateful to be in the room, they were grateful to be one of the very few who are given the opportunity to work with New Balance UK and produce such a stunning shoe.

When you think about this project in more depth, and as was pointed out by Jimmy of Footpatrol, the use of the Encyclopaedia Britannica as inspiration for a Made in UK New Balance is very appropriate, especially since the Encyclopaedia has a long standing tie to British heritage - it even has a thistle for it's logo! The Encyclopaedia is high quality to touch, and craftmanship is something that New Balance pride themselves on, especially when it comes down to materials, with only the finest being used on this project. One particular interesting fact mentioned by Chris Hodgson in relation to materials was that the leather used throughout the shoe, is in fact, waterproof, and it was sourced from English tanneries.

The New Balance 1500FPK sees a production run of around 1320 pairs, which doesn't seem like all that many, but be sure to keep your eyes open for a worldwide release soon, but in the mean time, check out some pictures below from the event.

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WOMFT - New Balance 860NSM

New Balance no longer produce the 860, which is a shame really as it's one of the great Made in England models from yesteryear. The majority of them seem to pop up on eBay now and again for dirt cheap, so it's always worth a search.

I think these may be from around 2007 or similar, not sure on an exact date. The 860 also lacks a heel counter which is pretty unusual, some people aren't big fans of this but I quite like it. I love this pair mainly because of the gold coloured N, it reminds me of great era of UK Made New Balance, but you can never really go wrong with a navy suede and mesh shoe, particularly when the quality and shape is as good as this!

I had always wondered why there was no heel counter on the 860, so when I got the chance, I asked someone at Flimby, and their answer was basically cost, as the 860 was brought in as a cheap/budget model.

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Flimby Factory Visit

DSC_0776 So, I had known for a little while that I would be heading down to Flimby to visit the New Balance Factory, but it never really hit home until a couple of nights before, it felt like Christmas was coming early. Anyway, the whole visit came around following a petition that was started with regards to the shape of UK Made models, in particular the 1500, and we were invited down to discuss this with the designers and developers, but I'll address that further down.

We were staying at nearby Cockermouth, but left there in the morning and headed to Flimby to be there for around 9am, a nice early start. Flimby is a small coastal village in Cumbria, England, and there isn't much there, except of course the New Balance Factory, a huge power plant, and loads of wind turbines!

Upon arriving at the factory, I had a little bit of an idea what to expect, and from the outside it doesn't look like much, but as soon as we stepped onto the factory floor for our tour, all expectations were surpassed. The sheer size of the factory inside was breathtaking, then throw into that all the hundreds of machines, workers, materials, etc, and it blows everything you could ever have imagined out the water.

New Balance haven't always resided in Flimby, back in 1982 they began manufacturing shoes in an old K-Shoes factory in Workington, but in 1991, they made the short move to  Flimby, and as the old saying goes, the rest is history. Over the years, the factory has grown in size, and the workforce too, with now over 250 people working there and producing around a million pairs of trainers a year.

The factory prides itself on it's 'Made in England' tag line, which means that all the shoes with this tag have been made from scratch at Flimby, and the volume of shoes produced this way is set to increase next year. Along with the Made in England pairs, the factory also produces performance shoes which include uppers and sole units which are only assembled there.

It's extremely rare for any brand, never mind a brand the size of New Balance to have not packed up and moved their manufacturing elsewhere to the likes of Asia, like many footwear brands before them have done. Of course, New Balance is a US brand, and they have a number of factories in the US, along with Asia, but for a workforce and factory this size to still be making shoes in the UK, it really is a testament to the Flimby factory and those who who work there day in day out.

If you follow the brand, names like Audrey Stewart, Ian Byers, Victor Dixon, Andy Mandle, Billy Edgar, and Roy Bell may ring a bell to you because of the shoes that they have had their name put to over the years, but those six, along with others such as Chris Hodgson, Mike Middlehurst, Andy Okolowicz, and every other member of the workforce, really are the un-sung heroes of the footwear world.

Following the tour of the factory, we visited Chris and Mike's office which houses the 'vault', a fancy name for a room in darkness at the far end, but housed with loads of gems that have been produced at the Flimby factory over the years, along with future releases, prototypes, you name it, that room had it! When you see all those shoes together in one place, it's easy to see why there are so many people who love the brand and share the same passion for it.

With the factory tour and a little jaunt in the vault over, it was time to head back to the meeting room and sit down with some of the designers, the developers, and others, all of who play a vital part in the running of New Balance Europe. The discussion, as previously mentioned, was mainly focussed around the shape of Made in UK models, and in particular, the 1500, and if ever we were looking for answers to questions, this was bound to be the time we would get them. Anyway, as if the day hadn't already been surreal enough, being sat at the table with everyone, after all the effort they had made to accommodate us inside of their busy schedules, and then provide their comprehensive history of the NB toe-puff, well, it was the cherry on top, and educational for all involved.

So you're probably curious as to what was said, right? Like ourselves, there were many looking for answers as to what had happened to the shape over the years, so hopefully the following information can clear some things up. As you can understand, there is a lot of information which cannot be repeated, especially not on to somewhere as public as the internet, but the information provided below should definitely be adequate enough to answer the questions.

If we were to revisit a few years back when we would regard the shape of the UK models as excellent, with that sharp toe shape, then we can do this by simply taking a bunch shoes released from this time, whether they're GRs or collabs it doesn't matter. Then if we look at the toe, we'll notice that it's for some of the very early releases, there isn't really any form of toe puff, and then the more recent releases pre-2009 feature do in fact feature a toe puff, but it is nowhere near the same as what is in the shoes currently. Back then, rather than using a piece of material, the toe puff was an adhesive which was melted and brushed on in a half moon shape, and this method was very inconsistent, which is why if you look at any number of shoes from this time, none of the toe shapes are the same, they all vary. Unfortunately, this old technique does not now meet official global quality control, technical and environment standards, and no brand anywhere in the world could use it if they wanted to.

To counter the inability to use this technique, NB had to come up with a new toe puff, and this came in the form of a piece of material from a German company, and it done everything NB needed it to do, it met all global standards, and in fact, it was of a higher construction standard as far as a performance shoe requirement goes, and at this time, the 1500 was still regarded as a performance shoe, more so than a lifestyle shoe. However, the general aesthetics of the shoe never appealed to everyone, and the various complaints were starting to be noticed.

You may remember that in 2012, the 1500CHF was released, a collaboration between New Balance UK and hanon shop of Aberdeen, and this shoe somehow managed to have a hugely better shape in comparison to anything released before it. Like yourselves, we have always wondered why, and we finally got an answer to this question. Basically, there has been years of trying to redevelop the toe puff behind the scenes, and as you can imagine, this is no easy feat, but the CHF features a different toe puff from the one used after the old adhesive method was ditched, and in actual fact, it is the same toe puff that is used in all models currently, except the 991, and any shoe that has a leather tip.

Obviously, using various toe puffs is a bit of a nightmare for the factory when manufacturing the shoes, and in an ideal world, they would use the same toe puff for every shoe, no matter the model, and no matter what material it is made out of. So this has lead to further research and development of the toe puff for the last couple of years, with many more companies and attempts at nailing down the 'perfect puff'.

The amount of research and development that has been ongoing for a number of years now behind the scenes was certainly surprising to us. Even once research and development is done, there is still testing to be done on all the various materials, and making sure that there are no issues during the manufacturing processes, but what we can say is that things have been moving along very quickly, it's being worked on, and sometime in the near future, there are big things to come!

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We were lucky enough to watch two models being made, the first was a 1500, and the pictures below should hopefully go through the processes almost step by step, from putting the panels together, to joining the midsole to the upper.

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After checking out the 1500 being made, we followed around a 576 line, and the processes are the same, but as the opportunity to visit the factory is so rare, we weren't going to say no, that was for sure!

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Along with the factory, there is also a factory shop which can be a bit of a hit and miss, but always well worth a look with plenty of shoes on discount, and a nice range of New Balance aparell to boot.

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