Well it’s 2015 and that means one very important thing, the 5 years of kicking myself over passing (albeit not by choice) on the 1300JP to release again is over. In that time we’ve seen the Australian dollar rally better than Colin McRae (RIP) and then crash like… well Colin McRae… The first time the shoe was released outside of Japan, the 1300JP wasn’t exactly a blockbuster in 2010. This was still before New Balance had really gained the following it currently has (especially when talking about the pre-2008 stuff) and sneakers were still relatively uncool to the general public. Since then we all know what happened but the 1300JP stays the same. Conveniently the price just about works out the same as last time too, with retail sitting somewhere around the $350au mark.
Luckily for the internet, Extra Butter got a bit trigger happy with the release and dropped their pairs early meaning that there are a few floating around there ripe for the reviewing. Obviously when we’re talking about the new-wave of NB aficionados the conversation immediately turns towards the shape of them. Now don’t get me wrong, I mean I’ve probably complained about the shape of the UK made 1500 longer than most kids have even known what those four numbers meant but the iron-wielding, toebox-butchering, lynch mob that goes about pulling some Pimp My Ride style hack jobs need to be stopped.
The 1300 was introduced into the New Balance line in 1984, a year after the 990 set a benchmark for both performance, quality and most memorably price. The first running shoe to cost $100us had also set the bar for New Balance footwear to come. It established the 99x series of runners as one of the most successful lineages still existing today and came to define New Balance footwear as many know it; expensive, high-tech “dad shoes”. By the time ’84 rolled around the $100 pricepoint of the 990 was surpassed by the even more expensive 1300, clocking in at an astonishing $130us. It carried many of the hallmark features introduced with the 990 such as a Vibram sole, plastic heel stabiliser and the highest quality materials possible but introduced unto the world one of NB’s most important technologies of the late 20th century: Encap. Carrying an EVA foam core within a PVA sole unit, Encap managed to last as New Balance’s premiere shock-absorbtion technology until Abzorb would release in the sole of the 998 in 1993. Another possibly even more important innovation was the SL-2 last that the 1300 was built on. Chances are if you’re wearing a pair of NBs that are of the “retro” flavour then you’ll be enjoying the comforts of the SL-2’s mechanical form.
The 1300 was well and truly the Cadillac of the New Balance lineup for years, it’s shock absorption was second-t0-none (literally) making the shoe easily one of the most cushioned rides around and the premium pigskin uppers made in the U-S-of-A meant it was a pretty luxurious piece of running footwear even at a time when “Made in Japan” was considered cheap and nasty and the Swoosh was still making footwear in the land of the free. New Balance knew that the price would shock and just like the preemptive ads for the 990 they hit straight at the cynics before they had a chance when the 1300 was announced in June of 1984. The ad approached the price tag head-on, making no apologies for it but instead telling you why it’s worth every penny. What NB probably wouldn’t have been able to predict was the love for the shoe outside of the elite running groups. Apparently quite popular in Boston with corner boys (a group whose taste was incredibly eclectic during this time period), the 1300’s price tag meant that anyone who was flossing a pair on the streets probably had some coin to drop.
One place in particular that the 1300 resonated very well was (of course) Japan, with the aspirational American lifestyle always being something the culture strived towards the 1300 represented the peak of that for footwear. What resulted was the 1300 getting re-released for it’s 10th anniversary exclusively for the Japanese market in 1995 (we’ll let the year slide, it did release late ’84 but I doubt it was widely available at that time) under the guise of the 1300J. Whilst the 1300 would remain visible through channels outside of Japan via the 1991 reissued 1300CL (see above) which although similar from a distance sported a completely different Encap sole unit stolen from the 577 (and also used on USA made co.jp 576s for a bit) and the upper too was quite different when compared with the original. The more accurate version remained only for the Japanese market, appearing every 5 years with slightly altered mesh or leather colours and varying sized N’s. Whilst many considered that 2005 would be the last time the 1300J would be seen, in 2010 quite unexpectedly the shoe was not only back but this time is was available outside of Japan under the guise of 1300JP in very small quantities. Now here we are with the new one set to drop later this month and this time things are even more far removed from tradition with Womens and Kids sizes also available in the 1300JP2.
So the obvious question that everyone will inevitably be asking is “are they as good as last time?” and the answers will undoubtably vary. My opinion is this: they aren’t the originals, they wont be the originals, they’re as close as you’ll get to them and they look great. Are they the same as last time? Well no they aren’t exactly the same, but for all intents and purposes they look just as good as the 2010s which were quite noticeably different to the earlier three 1300J versions in the upper colours. Do we know for sure which is more accurate? Probably not because most of the surviving pairs are now around three decades old and the simple effects of time on natural hides that aren’t sealed away from light and air mean that they wont look the same as they did. I’ve always been sceptical of magazine ad scans/images and catalogue photos as well which were often taken of sample shoes that would vary sometimes to huge degrees from the production spec. I will make one thing clear though, the shape is fine, don’t complain about the shape and for the love of god keep the scalpels away from these. If you don’t like them then just leave them for me, go put your iron to good use and do some house work.