With the M1300JP3 inching closer to its release this Friday the 21st of February, we wanted to take some time out to appreciate the history of New Balance’s 1300 silhouette, and the 1300JP itself. What better way to dissect its history than our close friend and revered New Balance aficionado Matt Kyte of Contra Store…
“It takes a bit to have me caring about a sneaker release these days, but if there’s one shoe that’ll jolt me back to the type of excitement I felt before the world was overrun by collaborations & high-budget ad campaigns for shoes nobody ever cared about, it’s New Balance’s 1300JP lineage.
Coming along every 5 years much like some sort of sneaker comet, there’s an aura to this shoe. It’s had more bring-backs than just about any other shoe I can think of but still remains relatively mythical. Part of that comes from the fact that, although revived 5 times since 1995, they’ve only been available outside of Japan twice.
With the third international release of this shoe coming up quickly it’s worth taking time to learn a bit more about what makes it so powerful in a world overrun with long-winded backstories. Now, I will waste some of my time giving you what I have determined to be the Most Unofficial, Maybe a Little Overstated & Potentially a Bit Inaccurate (But Mildly Interesting) History of the 1300…
The 1300 was placed into the New Balance range for 1984, a year after the 990 set a benchmark for performance, quality & most memorably price. The first running shoe to cost $100usd had also set a bar for any New Balance flagship to come. It established the 99x series of runners (one of the most successful lineages still existing today) & came to define New Balance footwear as many know it; expensive, high-tech grey “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 $130! It carried many of the hallmark features introduced with the 990 such as a Vibram® sole, plastic heel stabiliser & highest quality materials, but introduced unto the world one of NB’s most important technologies of the late 20th century: ENCAP. Carrying an EVA foam core ENCAPsulated within a PVA carrier, ENCAP managed to last as New Balance’s premiere shock-absorption technology until ABZORB would debut with the 998 almost a decade later in 1993. Another possibly even more important innovation was the SL-2 last that the 1300 was built on. For the less nerdy readers at home, the last is a foot form that the shoe is moulded to in the production process. It’s basically what gives the shoe the “fit” you experience. Chances are if you’re wearing a pair of retro NBs you’ll be enjoying the comforts of the SL-2’s mechanical form.
The 1300 was the Cadillac of the New Balance lineup for years, its shock absorption was second-to-none, making the shoe one of the most cushioned rides around & the premium pigskin uppers made in the U-S-of-A meant it was a pretty luxurious piece of footwear full-stop. NB knew that a near-50% price increase over 990 would shock & just like the preemptive ads for the 990, they went straight for the cynics when the 1300 was announced in June of 1984. In what is easily one of my favourite pieces of footwear advertising, their “Mortgage the House” ad faced the price argument head-on, making no apologies & instead telling you why it was worth every penny.
What NB couldn’t have predicted was the love their shoe garnered outside of elite runners. Quite popular with Boston’s drug dealers, the 1300’s price tag meant that anyone flossing a pair on the streets probably had some coin to drop. Mike Tyson continued his love affair with expensive NBs after famously sporting the 990 & laced up in the 1300 plenty of times. A man that big needs cushioning & in 1984 the 1300 was the best money could buy. Another titan that found comfort in the 1300 was the exacting grey shoe dad himself; Steve Jobs. Back before he was springing around the stage in 992s & custom-made Issey Miyake turtlenecks, a young Jobs kicked around the office in his lifetime best footwear choice: a pair of beat-up 1300s sporting a set of extra-long, massive-bow-tied red laces.
One place in particular that the 1300 resonated very well was (of course) Japan. With Americana being an aspirational aesthetic to many Japanese youth, the 1300 represented the peak of footwear. What resulted was an obsession that saw the 1300 re-released for it’s 10th anniversary exclusively for the Japanese market as the 1300J in 1995 (it actually released in late ’84 but I doubt it was widely available at that time). To understand more about just how big an undertaking this was for the Japanese design team I’d recommend reading Complex’s article from 2015 where Brendan Dunne did more research than current-day me would ever be bothered to do. The 1300 was available outside of Japan as the 1991-released 1300CL; which although similar from a distance, sported a completely different ENCAP sole unit borrowed from the 577 & a slightly different upper. This particular version is the one that appealed to a lot of American collectors including the delightfully obsessive Richie Roxas whose affinity for this particular version of the 1300 has always confused me as much as I admired it. The more accurate version remained only for the Japanese market, appearing every 5 years with slight alterations coming each time as the domestic design team tried to get more accurate with each rendition.
Whilst many considered that 2005 might be the last time the 1300J would be seen, in 2010 the shoe was not only back but for the first time ever it was available outside of Japan! There were improvements with the use of the original NB logo on the tongue label along with a return (for the first time since 1984) to a Vibram® outsole. Needless to say, there weren't enough pairs & the 1300JP disappeared swiftly, in spite of it sporting incredibly high retail price.
Once 2015 rolled around it was time again for a release (this time dubbed 1300JP2,) & production numbers were greater, stockist lists longer & retail prices higher. All of these factors did little to quell the thirst for more grey nubuck, although some initial whinging about toe box shapes plagued the internet which sent 1300JP prices skyrocketing over a perceived superiority in shape & quality. The reality is that if anything the JP2 was a bit more accurate thanks to the stubbier toe shape’s closer resemblance to the original. As with most releases everyone came to their senses within a month or 3 & by then pairs were gone.
Now we’re in 2020 & the future is clear; we’re due for a new 1300. This time things are looking pretty standard, there’s not much more than can be done by the talented & committed minds at NB’s Japanese HQ but the use of Horween leathers is a seemingly new addition. For some reason I feel like the iconic pigskin nubuck that fades oh so easily (and beautifully) on these has been coming out of the Chicago tannery for a while now but I could be wrong. We still get the iconic white & blue box remake that gets used nowhere else, the thick Vibram® rubber outsole, a unique ENCAP midsole that works just as well as it did in 1984 & that annoyingly grippy faux leather sockliner that exuberantly removes no-show socks throughout the day.
For me, few shoes compare to the original 1300. As an owner of far too many shoes we can often lose sight of the brilliance of a sneaker that just works. We’re often caught up in the hype, the story, the flashy unique colourway or unusual material choices but the 1300JP series eschews that in favour of quiet achievement. The slight improvements every 5 years means that it gets better, the understated looks mean you can wear it almost everywhere, the fantastic materials mean that much like a pair of jeans it gets better with age & the relative obscurity means that you’re not going to walk down the street to see some herb with a youtube channel & 18 subscribers documenting a fit check.
In a world that’s currently dominated by a culture of out-yelling each other & broadcasting our achievements for immediate satisfaction I think there’s something calming about seeing a pair of sneakers that just is. At a time when we look towards more ethical ways of consuming goods & making less of an impact on the world around us we need to shop smarter & the New Balance 1300JP3 just might be the most intelligent choice you can make.”
Moving through the M1300JP archives…
- 1995 (Pre) - M1300J (Runners Demo/Sample)
- 1995 - M1300 2005 - M1300J (Pedometer)
- 2006 - Centenary Playing Cards
- 2010 - M1300JP
- 2015 - M1300JP2
- 2015 - K1300JP (Kids)
- 2020 - M1300JP3