”Classic or Trash” is a recurring franchise highlighting a specific item and asking exactly that question: is it classic or trash? Granted, each member of the Grailed community is entitled to their own opinion, and while the Grailed editorial staff does its best to judge items objectively, we more than encourage you to disagree and sound off in the comments below.

In 1982, New Balance released a radical sneaker. The product of over three years of design and development, the 990 was intended to be the best running sneaker in the world–and at the time, it may very well have been. The heart of the company’s flagship 99x series, the 990 was predominantly made in the company’s native New England and boasted a three-figure price tag, unheard of at the time. While New Balance planned to move a mere 5000 units considering the luxury price point, it in fact sold more than ten times as many pairs and the 990 instantly became the company’s signature sneaker. The shoe was so critically and commercially successful that apart from minor technology tweaks, the company simply sat back and watched profits grow. The shoes utter practicality, comfort and mundane qualities meant it became a favorite for dads everywhere. Yet, somehow, its uniform colorways and minimal design attracted the attention of both sneakerheads and, eventually, fashion fans as well. An icon was born.

For a shoe that continues to sell by the truckload despite being pretty much the same for the last 40 or so years, arguing that it’s anything but a classic seems counterintuitive. Indeed, the 990 is considered by many as one of the greatest sneakers ever made, on par with the Air Force 1 or adidas shell toe. Yet, over the past five years, the sneaker landscape has drastically shifted. While the 990 was cool because it was as fashionable for dads as it was for sneakerheads, in a climate where dad style is actually cool, does a shoes that comfortably sits in both lanes fit the bill? As we continue our deep dive into orthopedic neon-colored footwear mania, are plain grey 990s passe?

The answer, in short, is no. New Balance’s most recent campaign—part of a long history of clever marketing surrounding the 99x series—explains it best: “Worn by supermodels in London and dads in Ohio.” The shoe’s ubiquity is the very trait that makes it so great. In a world where suddenly conformity and business casual is all the rage, shoes so unassuming are perfectly suited for blending in the right way. That’s exactly why even the arbiter of all things cool, Justin Saunders (aka JJJJound), made his New Balance 990 almost identical to the originals—because they are already perfect. While outre colorways and whacky orthopedics may rule sneakers for the foreseeable future, the 990 will never lose its innate normality, and as such its ironic coolness shall remain.

Disagree? Whether you think New Balance 990s are classic or trash, let us know in the comments below.

Tags: sneakers, new-balance, classic-or-trash