You can’t buy a Hallmark card for Grey Day—yet. But that’s okay. It’s not exactly a universally recognized holiday. In fact, it’s more of a marketing effort from the folks at New Balance, designed to create some excitement around a not-very-exciting color. Nevertheless, I choose to observe the occasion.
For one thing, I like gray (that’s how we spell it round these parts, with an “a,” though I will grant the alternate spelling for proper nouns). And I like New Balance sneakers. And when the two come together? Well, for me, it’s the footwear equivalent of the “chef kissy fingers” emoji I knowingly overuse on Slack.
Don’t get me wrong: I also like bright color combos and hyped-the-hell-up releases and all that jazz. But sometimes, nothing feels quite so right as a time-tested gray sneaker. And I enjoy the fact that New Balance has decided to lean into that vibe, especially considering the fact that the brand’s unapologetically uncolorful, deeply practical shoes used to be the butt of many a “dad shoe” joke not so long ago.
But now, gray is having its moment in the limelight. The normcore and chunky sneaker trends that made shoes like the 990 and 997 suddenly feel super-relevant to a fashion crowd are both pretty long in the tooth at this point, but the shoes persevere. That’s because they weren’t created for the moment, but adopted by it. They will likely continue to cycle in and out of trendiness for some folks, but for others, they’re stalwarts. Gray is their platonic form, and they’ll stay in rotation, no matter what else is happening in the style ecosystem.
That’s not to say that Grey Day is explicitly anti-newness. Along with a slew of classics in the color, this year’s iteration saw the release of two made-in-America 997s with their own individual twists. On one, a chunkier 997 Sport sole was grafted onto the traditional upper. On the other, the signature “N” emblem on the midfoot was replaced with the “Made in USA” embroidery typically found on the tongue.
On the whole—especially versus the wholesale reconstruction and reimagining of iconic silhouettes seen from other brands—these were subtle shifts. For New Balance? Well, they feel almost seismic. (Even more so than, say, a zany colorway.) These are shoes that speak volumes by staying quiet. They won’t stand out at a sneaker convention full of modern grails, except that they kind of will. They aren’t begging to be seen, but you find yourself compelled to take a second look.
Grey Day, I should note, is not today. It was yesterday, on September 5. And even though the two new shoes weren’t scooped up within minutes of launch by bots and foaming-at-the-mouth shoppers, there are just a few sizes of each left on New Balance’s site, way down on the smaller end of the spectrum.
Turns out folks think gray is pretty exciting, after all.