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Far Out Footwear: Reviewing New Balance's '70s-Inspired 327 Sneaker

There's no questioning which brand crafted these.

new balance 327 sneakers
New Balance

New Balance's 327 sneaker isn't the brand's newest. That crown goes to the chunky Vision Racer the brand dropped in collaboration with Will Smith's kid, Jaden (an actor, a rapper, and proud water brand owner). But it is definitely new. It debuted in April of 2020 (oof) via designer Charaf Tajer’s brand, Casablanca. Colorful, covered in prints, and finished with gold foil, the sneaker said a lot more about Casablanca than it did the 327's place in New Balance's established collection.

Would this be the go-to blank canvas for collaborations? Sort of. Todd Snyder launched his own interpretation of the silhouette. So too did retailers, Bandier and size?, and tennis sensation, Coco Gauff. Not the heaviest of aesthetic artillery, but they were successful releases nonetheless. So, what's the goal for New Balance's 327? What does it offer that their other sneakers don't? Honestly, the 327's are simply another fairly affordable sneaker to roundup out their robust catalog.

The sneaker's just $90. At Footlocker, where sales are frequent, it's just $60. On resale sites like StockX, even the Casablancas are going for roughly retail — ~$150. (They were higher because of the limited nature of the collab.) If history is set to repeat itself, the 327's affordability should equate to staying power. It's why Nike's $65 Tanjun was once its best seller — and why the $90 Air Force 1 will never fade.

new balance 327 sneakers
New Balance

New Balance has also signaled the 327, or at least the giant "N" logo on the side of it — which is significantly bigger than the ones on the rest of the brand's sneakers (including the 574) — will stick around. American designer Michael Kors dropped a sneaker (exciting, I know) with a giant "N" on it, too. Why? Who knows, but I'll give to New Balance, they look pretty similar.

Now, for the nitty gritty. What's it like fresh out of the box? What's it feel like on foot? First, let's address the sneakers that inspired the 327: the New Balance 320 from 1976 and the New Balance 355, and New Balance SuperComp from 1977. All three were sportier sneakers, designed to be worn on runs and during other straightforward workouts. Similar to Nike's with "waffle" soles, these all had repetitive tread that stretched the entirety of the shoe's underside. That's certainly one element the 327's have inherited, for better or worse: tentacle-like tread that surfaces at the heel and stretches halfway up the achilles. My opinions on the rest of the sneaker? Well, keep reading.

new balance 327 sneakers
New Balance

The Good

The price: At just $90, New Balance positions these alongside sneakers like Converse's Chuck 70 ($80), Allbirds' wool sneakers ($98), Adidas' Swift Run ($85), and Nike's Blazer ($90). There's stiff competition in the sub-$100 price range, but the 327 stands its ground. It's comfortable, good-looking (go, retro!), and relatively fuss-free.

The collabs (and those forthcoming): The Casablanca collaboration debuted the 327 silhouette to the world. It garnered positive press and plenty of hype. New Balance has done a few more co-designed drops since then but has largely abstained from any other seismic tweaks to this silhouette. It's likely, unless the general release versions starting selling out, that New Balance will stoke the hype surrounding this shoe with at least a few more collaborative editions. Keep an eye out for them.

The weight: The 327s are ultra-light. With uppers made from suede and mesh, it makes sense. There's little weighing these down. And that's great for someone who shops for shoes based off the ounces they'll add to an outfit, but most people don't care. We have, though, as a collective consumer, come to appreciate lighter things. They represent optimization and high-performance. And since this is a lifestyle shoe, there's no need for New Balance's ENCAP and or ABZORB technology, which would add weight.

The Bad

The logo: It's a logo so big you can't bring it down. (Michael Kors should know best.) All joking aside, the Ns scrawled out across the exterior sides of each 327 are eyesores. I know that the New Balance N appears on nearly every sneaker the brand's ever made, but this one's particularly big — the biggest, I'd argue, after a bit of research. It's so big that it nearly looks like nondescript paneling — like they'd marked where they wanted suede to be and didn't realize it formed a letter in the English alphabet.

new balance 327 sneakers
New Balance

The grip: No one needs the grip that goes up the back end of the 327. Even New Balance knows this. This is a lifestyle sneaker — a stark deviation from all of their designs destined for performance settings.

The construction: Although their general weightlessness is a W, these sneakers feel light — and, frankly, flimsy when you're moving at a faster pace. Could you race your younger cousin that claims they're faster than you in them? Sure. Would you win? Well, that's up to you, but the 327s honestly won't help. If you're buying them for brisk walks to the coffee shop and back, great. Anything grander and it's best to upgrade.

The Verdict

The 327 isn't New Balance's best sneaker — for a few fair reasons: it's relatively new, it comes without the tech embedded in the brand's upper echelon models, and it has a few outdated, albeit very '90s, design elements (namely, that big logo). It's hard to disavow the sneaker brand's new darling. Nike's '70s-era Killshot has found incredible success through unconventional channels — like J. Crew collabs and Madewell exclusives. Maybe that's the 327s eventual destiny, too? Wouldn't be worst case scenario for a brand that makes most of, if not all of, its money off shoes it originally debuted a few decades ago. Buy the 327s if you're going to do the bare minimum in them — and you can ignore the octopic (I just made that word up; It means ocotpus-like.) tread.

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