Nowadays, in the era of off-kilter collaborations and seemingly intentionally gaudy designer goods, the colors on a pair of sneakers appear chosen as to intentionally clash — well, at least to some eyes. In the same way moods can be assigned hues — calm and blue, anger and red, happiness and yellow — the overall aesthetic of a particular shoe elicits a response, too, and companies are carefully tweaking theirs to encourage transactions, or, at the very least, heighten the hype around a release. Collaborations between Nike and Sacai utilize nearly a dozen colors. Others rely on one tone but to a nauseating degree. For New Balance, however, gray — a hue that is historically drab — acts as a baseline and a tool for adding texture and interest.
"Between 70 percent to 90 percent of subconscious judgment on a product is made in a few seconds on color alone," Jenny Ross, New Balance's head of concept design and strategy for Lifestyle Sneakers, tells The New York Times. For Ross, the grays on a New Balance running shoe reflect splotchy concrete, the buzz of urban metropolises and yet a semblance of simplicity, too.
"Doing gray right is something we take a lot of pride in. Every gray on our color ring has a character and personality: Castle Rock is warm; Steel is a blue tone. With legacy models, we make sure our tanneries never stray. They replicate with precision," she tells the NYT's Mark O'Flaherty.
While the sneaker industry at large indulges in the chaos of color, New Balance, in many of their collections, remains true to their most beloved hue. In fact, one of their newest shoes, the Un-N-Ding, a 574 without the big "N" logo, features more than five shades of gray suede. It was released in celebration of Grey Day, the company's nod to "the iconic greys embedded in New Balance's brand DNA."