Should New Balance Earn The Ire Of Sneakerheads For (Kind Of) Supporting Donald Trump?

Murray Carpenter/NPR

“The Obama admin turned a deaf ear to us & frankly w/ Pres-Elect Trump we feel things are going to move in the right direction” – New Balance

I’ve worn Colin Kaepernick’s jersey several times since he started kneeling during the National Anthem. I haven’t worn a Derrick Rose signature shoe since the accusations (that have since been dropped in civil court) that he and his friends drugged and raped a woman have come up in the past year. To be honest, even though I love the color orange, it’s been hard to look at in the past few days. I don’t want to pick a side and stick with one without acknowledging the other; I try as best as I can to have nuanced views on complicated issues. Sneakerheads who are denouncing New Balance because they support one of Donald Trump’s views isn’t that complicated.

This past Tuesday, America has spoken and we now have a new president in Donald Trump  (well, technically Hillary won the popular vote but let’s not get into that). It’s been less than 48 hours since the phrase “President-Elect Trump” has become a part of our lives and people – myself included – just don’t know how to take it. For those who voted for him, he is a hero those who feel like they have been left out of the conversation in the country for the past eight years under President Barack Obama. Meanwhile, those who are fans of Obama and voted for either Hilary Clinton, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, or even Harambe are shocked and dismayed that our country has taken five steps forward and ten steps back by electing a president who despite being born ten steps ahead, has a fortune that’s five steps behind where it should be and has made racist, misogynistic and hateful comments about every person who isn’t a white man. And if you can get past that – and honestly, millions did – there are those who feel he’s not fit to be President because he has not presented the country with actual policies to help American move forward other than in general platitudes that are so boilerplate that they are hard to discern or figure out what he actually wants to do in the next four years. Now that’s complicated.

J. Crew x New Balance 998 Made In U.S.A. Independence Day (Sneaker Freaker)
J. Crew x New Balance 998 Made In U.S.A. Independence Day (Sneaker Freaker)

As you might imagine this has led to a lot of silence from brands when it comes to endorsing a candidate. Not that they were prone to dipping into politics anyways (Republicans buy shoes after all, as somebody may or may not have said famously back in the day), but this election cycle was so toxic that any tweet or comment was so micromanaged so as to not piss off either side. So when New Balance came out and supported Donald Trump it sent a shockwave through the sneaker community. This is a brand that takes pride in producing sneakers that are high-quality and fashionable and most importantly, made in the USA. It’s embedded in their DNA and in their marketing.

But that’s not what the country heard. Without any context, anybody reading that initial statement will interpret that as the words of a group of people who feel like the Obama administration has ignored them and their pleas to remain relevant in a changing world. In other words, that statement reads like an angry Trump voter that was overjoyed when their candidate won.

It goes back to nuance. From the outside looking in, New Balance put out a statement that supports Donald Trump wholeheartedly. They would later clarify that by saying they support Trump’s stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership but not anything else (because supporting somebody that many people believe to be a racist, misogynistic, fear-mongering demagogue is not a good look), which appears to be a secret cabal of nations that will open up trade for everybody. It’s so secretive at this point that nobody really knows what it’s going to do and what little they have to go on appears to be bad from New Balance’s standpoint. Nike supports TPP, highlighted by a 2015 hosting of President Obama out in Beaverton.

But the damage has been done and sneakerheads have turned out to denounce their support of New Balance. We’ve seen plenty of videos and images of sneakerheads burning their sneakers or throwing them in the trash. Some are quick to point that while New Balance is proud of their “Made in U.S.A.” initiative, the actual materials and shoes made locally isn’t as high as the marketing might present. Sneakerheads might think NBs are awfully comfortable, but to them it’s not worth it if it means they’re in Trump’s camp. A little bit of nuance of New Balance’s part could have gone a long way in avoiding this and maybe blurting out what appears to be an emotional response just days after the most brutal election campaign the country has ever seen was not the best way to go about it.

So should New Balance be punished for supporting Donald Trump? That’s really up to every single sneakerhead out there who feels like they affected by this action taken by the brand. Personally, I’m not totally up to date on my TPP knowledge other than that I know that Clinton called it the “Gold Standard” once but has since waffled on that take depending on what day it is, and both Trump and Bernie Sanders are not fans of the agreement. And as we’ve seen during the election season, those two could not be any more different in almost everything else. If they can agree on this issue, then maybe it deserves a little more time and nuance before we all go burning our 574s.

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