Has the Air Force 1 finally been replaced?
New Balance’s revival of the 1989 classic has become one of the influential sneaker movements of 2021. Aimé Leon Dore owner Teddy Santis found a beautiful silhouette in the archives of the American sportswear company and resurrected it to finally provide sneakerheads and alternative to the worn-out AF1’s or Reebok 85’s.
The New Balance 550 is a sturdy basketball sneaker constructed from premium leather and high-end production standards. The result is a clean, yet intricate everyday sneaker that offers unlimited room for crazy collabs and stunning colourways. With even high-stock general release colourways selling out almost instantly, the sneaker should not be overlooked.
The 550 breaks the boundaries between hype and everyday-wear, blurring the lines between those who buy their sneakers through raffles and those who buy their sneakers at Footlocker. The shoe is loved by the sneaker community just as much as it is by the less-informed cohort that merely wants an aesthetic and comfortable sneaker. Naturally generated hype, time for a New Balance (read more here).
Although the sneaker only returned to the market in late 2020, we have seen incredible colourways and collaborations. Instead of opting for Travis or Ye, New Balance has carefully chosen who gets the chance to show their interpretation of the 550. The breathtaking results make it extremely difficult to compose a list of the top 5, but here is our best shot.
Without further ado, the best 5 New Balance 550’s of this year.
New Balance 550 White Black Red
No matter which brand, no matter which sneaker, the Chicago colorway always slaps. We’ve seen it on Jordan 1’s, on Dunks, the combination of red, black and white is a guaranteed beauty. New Balance certainly acknowledged this potential and perfectly executed this colorway on the 550.
The White Black Red edition is one of the more versatile iterations, shifting away from the regular tonal designs. The strong contrasts elevate the 550 to a clean and wearable sneaker that guarantees comfort and quality. I promise you that even your mom will think this is a good-looking shoe.
New Balance 550 Rich Paul
NBA fans will recognize the name and wonder what NBA super-agent Rich Paul has to do with sneakers, and we couldn’t be more confused either. The first time an agent receives a signature sneaker – why, what, when, how?
At the end of the day, it shouldn’t be as surprising as it is. Having signed basketball legends such as LeBron James and Ben Simmons, Paul has certainly been exposed to the sneaker game throughout the years. What better occasion to become the first agent with a signature sneaker than THE hyped basketball-designed silhouette of the year. A collab with New Balance is everything anyone could ask for right now, and Rich Paul took the opportunity.
And boy, did he execute it well.
The New Balance 550 Rich Paul features a palette of pastel colorblocking, with an off-white leather dominating the upper, accented by blue mesh details. The yellowed “N” logo matches the aged midsole, which is stunningly combined with a baby-blue and black outsole. 100% vintage, 100% luxury, 100% magnificent. A must-have, and definitely one of the best NB550 colourways so far.
New Balance 550 White Grey
If we compare the 550 to an Air Force 1, we have to acknowledge the legendary triple-white colourway – arguably the most successful sneaker of all time. Similarly, the New Balance 550 White Grey represents the canvas on which the future of this silhouette rests.
A triple-white alternative of any silhouette is more than necessary, and provides sneakerheads a clean choice for a summer beater. However, standing out from other all-white sneakers, this 550 deploys a grey outsole to emphasize the vintage look that New Balance has in mind with the silhouette.
It's probably one of the cleanest sneakers on the market at the moment, and regardless of where the NB550 trend takes us, the blank-canvas version will always remain an easy go-to choice for an easy-to-wear everyday shoe.
New Balance 550 Auralee
New Balance teamed up with Japanese label Auralee back in August 2021 to collaborate on the 550. While the release was fairly under the radar, with little promotion or coverage, the tonal end-result is an absolutely stunning vintage aesthetic.
The minimalistic off-white sneaker features even less branding than the original, removing the basketball logo on the leather tongue, with the only nod to Auralee (besides the incredible design) in the insole of the shoe. One of the most elegant and wearable versions of the 550, Auralee and New Balance simultaneously ensuring the absolute highest tier in terms of leather quality and finish. A must-have for those looking for a minimalistic, elegant, comfortable, and high-quality sneaker.
New Balance 550 Aimé Leon Dore
This list would not be credible if the ALD take on the 550 were not on top spot. Not only did the collaboration initiate the comeback of the silhouette, Teddy Santis’ take on the shoe is simply matchless. All colourways impeccably combine the most stunning palettes, flawless colour-blocking – the perfect everyday vintage sneaker.
The ALD version of the 550 sets itself apart from the rest with an off-white leather upper, as well as Teddy Santis’ brand details on the tongue, heel, and insole. The overall result is a very minimalistic finish that takes the 550 to another level of perfection. Subtle, elegant, vintage, hyped. What more do you want?
Since it would be too subjective for me to pick out the best colourway of the ALD x New Balance 550 line-up, we asked the Drip Drops community for their opinion!
The result was quite clear: the Aimé Leon Dore x New Balance 550 Natural Green is deservedly the fan-favourite. The autumn-ready color combinations are beyond intricate, the yellowed sole flows into the off-white upper, the green-yellow combination is vintage at its best. This one will make it into the history books, guaranteed.
Do you agree with the top 5 list? Let us know in the comments below!
by Freddy Schwoerer of Drip Drops
Editor’s note: this was honestly the most difficult list I have ever had to compose. New Balance is absolutely killing it with the 550, and choosing the 5 best versions was pretty much impossible. This is my best take, but there are so many more incredible colorways to come, so stay tuned for more news and reviews!