From the ground up

Earlier in July, New Balance invited a handful of lucky sneakerheads to the brand’s historic factory in Flimby, Northern England. At the factory, these ardent New Balance fans were given the chance to craft a 1-of-1 pair, made before their eyes. Well known collectors “Glasgow” Rob Stewart, Ida Broen and others were on hand for the rare opportunity, each adding their own ideas and concepts to the table, and eventually bringing their design to life.

Philadelphia-based Richie Roxas was among the chosen few, creating his own version of the New Balance 1500. We caught up with Richie at his home to check out some highlights from his massive New Balance collection, and find out a bit more about his trip to Flimby.

See our exclusive images complete with the conversation below.

First, when and why did your interest in New Balance begin?

My interest in New Balance began in the early ’90s. I was collecting sneakers from a lot of brands, but New Balance stood out, and was the most comfortable to wear. They were also, sort of, an underdog brand at the time, and that appealed to me. Grey New Balances look good with any outfit too.

What are some of your most prized New Balances?

I have many pairs of prized New Balances, including the Crooked Tongues 576, Crooked Tongues 991 autographed by BJ Betts, Staple MT575 autographed by Jeff Staple, 1300JP from 1995 and Just For Feet 1600, as well as my vintage Trailbuster, vintage Trail & Fell, vintage 1001 and more.

What are your favorite New Balance collaborations?

There are so many good collabs from over the years, but some of my favorites would include the ones mentioned above, as well as the ALIFE 1300, Capsule 580, Ball and Buck 585, Undefeated 574, HUF RC205, Concepts “C-Note” 998, Urban Outfitters 496, and a bunch from Hanon and J. Crew.

Do you wear everything in your collection?

I don’t wear everything, but I wear most of them. I’d like to have two pairs of my favorites, so that I could wear one and stock one. There are a lot that I don’t have a second pair of yet. Stocking gets first priority since I consider myself a bit of an archivist. If I am able to get a second pair, then it gets worn right away. I can’t always find or afford a second pair though.

Where have you sourced your collection from?

My collection comes from several places. Early on, it was strictly from local stores and what was available nearby. That includes thrift stores, where some of the best gems come from. Traveling to other cities also opened me up to other models and colorways that I never knew existed.

Once the internet and eBay started, it really opened up the scope of what was attainable. Connections with other collectors worldwide through the internet, was also immensely helpful. Sometimes my friends will travel to other places and bring back New Balance gifts as well.

Do you keep in touch with a lot of other New Balance collectors?

I do communicate and keep in touch with other collectors from all over the world, with the help of message boards and social media. We help each other out finding specific shoes and sizes and letting each other know where they are available. There are some insane New Balance collectors out there. Most of my real-life friends aren’t into sneakers, so it’s a good outlet for me to have “digital” friends too.

What do you think about more contemporary New Balance shoes like the S74S or other Fresh Foam models?

I love Fresh Foam. A lot of people haven’t tried it out. Fresh Foam is soft, yet firm at the same time. It’s unlike Boost, which is too soft for me. I feel like I am going to injure myself in Boost, as it rolls too much without much stability. The Fresh Foam Gobi was one of my favorite releases of last year and totally slept on. The Vongo and the Boracay are also dope models. I like the 574S too, but I feel it looks better with shorts or tapered pants, neither of which I wear very often.

Recently you went to New Balance’s factory in Flimby, UK to make a 1-of-1 sneaker. Explain your design.

Going to Flimby to design a shoe and see it being made in person was an extraordinary experience. I love the 1500, and wanted to honor the original grey version. Grey was the base of my design, and it’s also my favorite color. The black and yellow bits pay tribute to The Hacienda nightclub, which shares its 35th anniversary with the factory in Flimby.

I wanted to keep the shoe purely UK. In this case, it’s even more local and purely northern UK. It was my way of paying respect and giving thanks back to the brand and everyone there.

What do you think about the current sneaker reselling climate?

I don’t really have a true opinion on the current sneaker reselling scene because I am not hugely involved with it. It’s helped me a few times, as I was able to find something rare and in my size. Overall, It isn’t really my thing and it seems to be more negative than positive. I pretty much try to stay out of it, other than finding shoes that I personally want.

Are there any New Balance models that you’re looking to add to your collection but haven’t found?

There are always models that I want, and always models that I want to acquire a second pair of. I am always looking for the Stussy MT580 and the Offspring 577, both from 2004. There is also a 577 made exclusively for the Israeli army, that has eluded me a few times.

Peep some of Richie’s best cops below.

This is the custom 1500 that I designed at the Flimby factory recently. I had to include this shoe among my favorite UK models. How could I not? It turned out pretty much as I imagined it in my head. I basically only had one draft. There are few things I would've liked to see tweaked, but I would probably feel that way no matter what. The color scheme is fairly simple, but I went wild with the custom stitching and premium materials. I wanted it to have some color, but not too loud, so that it's still practical and wearable. Really insane to have a pair of custom shoes that I designed!
This is a vintage, made-in-UK Trailbuster. This model is a cult classic among hardcore New Balance collectors. It came in a variety of colors, but this grey and blue version is the pinnacle of this model. It has an aggressive outsole tread that is pretty cool. These aren't even in my size, but this shoe rarely pops up for sale, so I had to go for them.
Another obscure UK model, this is called the Boston. This particular men's version is white and green, and I also have the women's version in white and purple. This shoe has the same midsole as the more popular NBX 850, which is an odd detail. Another strange fact, is that it was called the Boston during an era when almost all New Balance models were still named numerically.
This is a rare, three-way collaboration between the New Balance, Solebox and Being Hunted on the UK MT575. It is made out of vintage military jacket material. I love the mix of materials and earthy colors. The gumsole is the cherry on top. Released in 2006 and limited to 60 pairs.
An underated UK model, this is called the RX Terrain. I found this pair at the New Balance outlet in Shap, UK back in 2006. I was unaware that the model existed, and saw it sitting in a bin for dirt cheap. I love the colorway of this model, and think these colors would translate well on other models. This has a heavily treaded outdoor outsole. I wore them once in the rain and I was slipping and sliding around. These are for dry weather only!
This is a super rare colorway of the UK 577. This pair might even be a sample. I bought these from a friend, who is a fellow collector, and happens to be the same size as me. This colorway is totally insane. Grey, grey camo, with Lakers purple and yellow is a strange mix, but they work here. This pair gets worn for special occasion only.
This is a custom NB1 998 that I designed. NB1 will sometimes offer special materials for their custom program. This one uses Cone Mills denim, which was only available for a short period. I love how these turned out, and I wish I made a second pair at that time. I really hate the colored toe trend, that is so common these days, but I love colored heel pieces. I went mostly white, with grey and light blue denim thrown in. I also opted for the light blue midsole to go with the denim.
This is an obscure, made-in-USA model called the NBX 900. I also have the UK-made version, which is slightly different. Very '90s colors here, white, hot pink, and purple. The original laces are white, but this pair didn't come with them. I threw in these purple laces a few years back, but I'll probably put white ones in at some point.
This is a vintage, made-in-USA 770. This model is a gem among hardcore collectors. The burgundy and tan have faded with time and are now very cool and dusty looking. For me, the best part is the layering of fabrics on the heel. The 770 was just reissued by New Balance UK and the reissues are pretty true to the original. New Balance will be putting these out in a bunch of colorways this year, so keep an eye out.
This is a recent collaboration between New Balance and Ball & Buck on the the made-in-USA 585. This is one of my favorite collaborations in recent years. This shoe has it all, in my opinion. Excellent quality, materials, and colors. It features Ball & Buck's signature plaid material, premium leather details, custom "made in USA" perforations on the heel, a creamy midsole, and a gumsole to top it all off. The initial release also came packaged with some really cool photographic prints. More collaborations should be of this standard. I doubled up on these, and might even triple up someday. These get a lot of use from me.
This is a rare colorway of a vintage, USA-made 997. For some, the 997 is the top New Balance model as far as looks and comfort. I would agree that it is one of New Balance USA's most comfortable models from the current roster. Vintage pairs go for a bunch of money and are seldom found these days. This is the only example I've seen of this white and grey combo. It also happened to be my size, so I had to snatch them up before someone else did. These are definitely staying deadstock and in the box. This is a real gem here.
This is a rare 1300 JP from 1995. The 1300 JP releases once every 5 years, since 1995. It is USA-made, but only available for the Japanese market. It wasn't until the 2010 edition that it was made available to the rest of Asia. The 2015 version was finally made available to an even wider audience. I bought this pair from Hong Kong, already used and beat up. I knew I would never find this pair in my size again, so I had to buy them. The upper is totally beat up, but the sole is still holding strong. The model is worthy of its price tag, and this example is a true relic.

Now, meet this Swedish adidas collector with more Stan Smiths than Stan Smith himself.

  • Photography: Manuel Dominguez Jr. /

Vancouver-born, Berlin-based writer, photographer and editor with a steady hand on the keyboard.

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