Get into the Groove: the New Balance 327
Long before their status as the senior statesmen of 99x suede was in full effect, New Balance was one of the prime movers in the nylon running boom that dominated the early 1970s. It’s an era that occasionally throws up a few random stylish gems but has largely been ignored for the last few decades as ‘the 90s!’ dominated mood boards. That all changed earlier this year when the smokin’ hot New Balance 327 added throwback flair to its fashion-forward favouritism. To better appreciate why kicking it proper old school is the new cool, let’s fire up the time machine and revisit the hotsteppers that influenced the 327’s retro vibe.

Disco Inferno
The New Balance 320 burst from the blocks in 1976, setting a new standard in fit and cushioning thanks to its distinctive toe box and exaggerated outsole heel wrap. Nylon and suede were the early running boom era’s signature double act and the 320 perfected that tactile combination. Durable, breathable and ultra lightweight, the 320 was rightfully ranked #1 by Runners World that same year and the model quickly became the go-to trainer for amateurs and pros alike.

Track to Trail 355
The 320’s award-winning phenotype provided the foundations for the 355, its numerical and technological successor. Released in 1978, the 355’s notched toe box overlay now supported breathable mesh in place of nylon. As road runners took to the trails to test their competitive mettle, New Balance braced the 355’s undercarriage with a flat-studded tread made from Nora-Tuff rubber for extra traction on treacherous surfaces. Today, that same knobbly outsole sits proudly beneath the 327.

SuperComp
While the 355 was a hardcore trail-munching monster, its SuperComp sibling was simultaneously blazing up the blacktop in style. Condensing the 355’s oversized tread pattern into a fine brush, the SuperComp also substituted a Lydec rubber compound to provide superior grip. If that wasn’t sticky enough, the firey orange/red/marigold colourway sure was, frying the eyes of many aspiring runners, including those of a young Steven Smith (yes, that Steven Smith, genius future designer of the New Balance 1500 and 997 among others). The distinctive SuperComp colour combination would return some 40 years later on a recent 327 that was split Jekyll-and-Hyde-style into two-tone heritage blue and orange.

Audacious Entrance
Frankly, the sneakersphere did give a damn when Casablanca’s ‘Idéaliste’ 327 debuted at Paris Fashion Week earlier this year. Designed by Casablanca head honcho Charaf Tajer, the citrus-flavoured double pack popped melons from day one. Obsessed with 70s-inspired graphic prints and silky style, Casablanca was an unusually bold choice by New Balance to launch their ‘all-new’ retro shoe. The tangy mix of orange and verdant green suede with perforated white leather was a fruity concoction but it firmly rooted the 327 in the hairy-chested 1970s running scene from whence its attitude originated. What’s more, the timing could not have been more perfect. Sartorialists and sneakerheads alike gave the tres chic colab a double thumbs up, skyrocketing the 327’s clout months ahead of its official general release.

Let’s just take a moment to survey 2020’s sneaker du jour. The 327 is not simply a hybrid hero that cherry-picks the best bits of New Balance’s back catalogue. Much like the classic BMW 3 series, New Balance’s 3xx line is full of classical quirks. Design mastermind Charlotte Lee pushed all knobs to 11 to create the 327, using a maximalist gas axe to eke out a familiar looking runner that is equal parts sports car, retro runner and social-feed foot flexer.

Size does indeed matter. Acres of prime real estate were reserved for the honking huge ’N’ logo, a move pioneered by its more streamlined forefathers. Suede entirely engulfs the toe box and heel counter, contrasting nicely against the period-correct upper. Underfoot, the foam wedge midsoles that were once sculpted for max performance have been flared for max girth at the heel and forefoot. A slimmed down sole just won’t do for such a domineering slab of foam.

While the design itself might be a trainerspotter puzzle, there’s no doubt newjacks have instinctively fallen in love with the New Balance 327. You can break it down into its many weird and wonderful parts but there’s no need. The people have spoken and they like what they see.

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