The internet seems to amplify tragedy to the point of vulgarity. Social media seems to have created — or at least enabled — a realm for grief junkies to network with other oddballs and Steve Jobs’s passing has instigated a predictable level of ghoulish hyperbole (shouts to Jenny Owen for that one) that seems to undermine the character they’re deifying in death. Mr. Jobs was a great man — his public speaking skills, vision, bluntness, absolute aversion to mediocrity and one-word way with emails to whining customers are all inspirational traits.
He never seemed like one for weeping in shop doorways.
Steve Jobs’s Stanford address and 1985 ‘Playboy’ interview are magnificent — hopefully the impending official biography will be equally as essential, but to pay homage to Steve, blogging about his taste in shoes seemed appropriate in its nerdiness. Other than some lapses into the mystery black shoes, the turtleneck and denim of Apple addresses were frequently set off with the grey New Balance 991 (I believe he also broke out the 992 and — when the 992 was superseded and deleted — the 993 in 2010) running shoes. Sure, Steve wore Nike Moires in 2006 for the Nike+ announcement and looked awkward in adidas over a decade prior, but he’ll be fondly remembered for prowling the stage, half Milk Tray Man, half casual dad in those New Balances.
For all the aesthete tendencies and focus on curves, it’s curious that Steve would opt for what’s arguably one of the ugliest shoes in the NB armoury. I’ve got a lot of love for the 991, but it’s the quality, the comfort of ABZORB and the shoe’s performance credibility rather than slick looks that make it appeal to me. The ‘USA’ panel is an awkward detail on a busy upper. Then it all makes sense — Steve had plenty on his mind and he didn’t need his shoes to cause any issues — the New Balance 991 is undisputedly trustworthy. Geniuses don’t want to deal with nonsense.
After taking some pictures of the New Balance 991 production line in the UK factory in Flimby earlier this year, my appreciation for the shoe increased significantly. I wasn’t sure where they should go, but it made sense to up them here in their entirety. I’m sure there are some like minded oddballs thinking differently who’ll enjoy geeking out over this kind of imagery. That afternoon we only caught the navy variation being put together but we saw the preparation for the greys that Steve favoured. Whether the big man preferred a Made in England or Made in the USA variant remains a mystery, but it’s long perplexed me that even UK-made versions of the 991 still have the ‘USA’ text on them. It’s unlikely that Apple would ever let anybody shoot inside their factories either, but that transparency is what gives New Balance its own rabid audience — one unlikely to switch brand allegiance and willing to cyber beef with critics too. Brand loyalty’s a powerful thing.