In the sneaker industry, 2022 is a year of celebration. Not only is the New Balance 990 turning 40, but Nike's Air Max 1 turns 35. As both brands up the ante in celebration of two of the game's most celebrated flagship sneakers, we have to ask, which will reign supreme?
It's not often that two silhouettes as monumental and rich in history and ingrained in the culture touch such big milestones simultaneously, and this year, things feel a little different than ever before.
Over the years, sneakers have nearly always felt like Nike, and by default, Air Jordan's game. These powerhouses have rarely fallen from the top spot; regardless of what your personal tastes may be, they're a dominant force.
There has always been fierce competition, of course. Kanye West skyrocketing adidas' sales through YEEZY, UltraBOOSTs hitting a strong stride in 2015-17, and Li-Ning's snowballing popularity, but none have swept the rug from under Nike's feet quite like New Balance did last year.
Following a stacked line-up of collaborations that included everyone from WTAPS to Paperboy Paris and Teddy Santis' appointment as Creative Director, NB's palette underwent a fine-tuning that kept its releases flying off shelves.
Even though the 990 had a strong year in 2021 by all accounts, it's beginning to look like it was all a tease for everything 2022 would have to offer in celebration of the silhouette's 40th anniversary.
Taking to Instagram, Teddy shared an image that showed 16 new colorways of the Made In The USA 990 (in each of its versions), which has sent fans into a frenzy. Rightly so, as these look like some of the strongest options New Balance has ever launched outside of collaborative drops.
Clearly, there's much to be desired for the kick's 40th year, but with Nike's Air Max Day celebrations less than two weeks away, coinciding with the Air Max 1's 35th anniversary, it may be too early to call 2022 New Balance's year (again).
It was suggested that 2022 would be the year of the AM1, following an oversaturation of Dunk Lows last year, but since Patta's three-strong effort, only Concepts' wild remixes have managed to stick, which leaves me with the feeling that the silhouette will continue to struggle without collaborations.
There are a few new looks on the horizon for Air Max Day, including an extremely promising Wabi-Sabi colorway, and if that makeup is anything to go by, Nike may still have a few tricks up its sleeves yet.
Personally, I'm a fan of both silhouettes and have only recently started to diversify my rotation with some NB, but judging off Teddy Santis' tease alone, the 990 has 2022 in the bag. Regardless, it's good to see the AM1 get some well-deserved time in the spotlight.