These days, #SneakerTok is quick to label anything Taylor Swift wears as the next It shoe. But according to celebrity style insiders and the sneaker experts at StockX and Lyst, TikTok is right on the money with the New Balance 550—a chunky, low-top basketball sneaker that’s long been a favorite of street style trendsetters like Hailey Bieber, Emily Ratajkowski, Laura Herrier, and Sofia Richie.
But why is the New Balance 550 so popular? Celebrity approval has been central to this laid-back retro sneaker’s ascent, and the proof is in the data. Searches for New Balance 550 sneakers on the shopping site Lyst increased by 44 percent after Swift was seen wearing a pair in a viral video at her first Kansas City Chiefs game. Swifties sold out the exact red, black, and white colorway overnight. (Note: the nearly identical colorway pictured here is still available for $130.) Suddenly, 550s were the must-have shoe for millions of fans worldwide.
“It’s hard to overstate the importance of people wanting to have a piece of what their favorite celebrities are interested in,” Andrew Haines, director of sneakers and collectibles at StockX, tells BAZAAR. Especially when said piece is priced at a reasonable $110–$130.
The 550 remained the top-traded New Balance style on StockX for the second year running, outranking other Swift-approved silhouettes like the 2002R and 9060. Overall, New Balance saw record sales in 2023 on StockX, marking the brand’s fifth straight year of growth on the resale platform.
Like Air Force 1s and Adidas Superstars, New Balance 550s began as humble basketball sneakers. The style first debuted in 1989 but was buried in the New Balance archives after an initial run. In late 2020, the silhouette was reintroduced through limited-edition collaborations with Rich Paul, Auralee, Joe Freshgoods, and most importantly, Aimé Leon Dore. These big-name 550 collabs were like style catnip for celebrities, and before long, everyone from Adele to Jack Harlow could be seen wearing them courtside.
“Anything that Aimé Leon Dore touches in the footwear space turns to gold,” Haines says. “You see a halo effect around releases. Maybe I can’t afford this expensive collaboration, but I can get this regular release that’s stylistically similar for a fraction of the price.” The same can be said for the trendy Adidas Samba and its various designer spin-offs. Shop fast, and you can score the latest Aimé Leon Dore x New Balance collab for its $130 retail price instead of the $300+ price premium that comes with many resale pairs.
Celebrity shopper Gab Waller has also seen demand for New Balance 550s skyrocket with clients, with notable spikes following sightings on Internet style icons like Matilda Djerf, Meredith Duxbury, Kendall Jenner, Sofia Richie and the Hadid sisters. She says the everyday sneaker has remained her clients’ most coveted New Balance style and “an absolute must-have” for multiple seasons in a row.
“They’re very comfortable, very classic. They can be styled so many different ways for everyday wear. And, of course, the price range appeals to everyone,” Waller explains. “It’s a style that has global impact.” While Scandinavian and Parisian girls style their New Balances with boyfriend denim and relaxed tailoring, women in L.A. and Australia prefer theirs with athleisure and quiet luxury coats. The silhouette’s versatility is undeniable.
The takeaway? New Balance 550s are one buzzy sneaker that’s actually worth the hype. As Arri Grewal, a brand marketing executive at Lyst tells BAZAAR, “New Balance sneakers constantly remain in fashion lovers’ subconscious thanks to a never-ending stream of hard-to-get collaborations and new releases.” Timeless yet trendsetting, any colorway can become a mainstay of your footwear collection in 2024 and beyond.
Sarah Maberry is a Firstfinds Commerce Writer at Hearst Magazines, covering trending products in fashion, beauty, lifestyle and beyond. She’s obsessed with being the first to wear, try, watch and buy what’s going viral.