Last November, Boston-based sneaker brand New Balance got itself in serious hot water when one of its VPs, Matthew LeBretton, said that he felt a Trump presidency would mean good things for the company—specifically in regards to the how the death of the Trans Pacific Partnership would align with its own “Made-in-America” ethos.
LeBretton’s comments ignited a firestorm of controversy considering New Balance had an ongoing beef with the Obama administration regarding a contract to make sneakers for the military. (One that was hopefully squashed after Obama signed a bill in December guaranteeing the military buys made-in-America sneakers for new recruits. All of this, including what many felt was a disingenuous, weak response to the controversy from the brand (especially when it came to the brand being endorsed by literal neo-Nazis), seemed only to exacerbate the idea that New Balance supported Trump. As we later learned with L.L. Bean, these days any association to the president can be seen as an implicit endorsement of all the racist, sexist, and xenophobic baggage that comes with him.
We get that outrage. (We felt it, too!) But the merits of globalism and the T.P.P. could be argued all day (which is why politicians and economists often do argue about them all the damn time). All we’re saying is there are other considerations that should come in to play when judging a brand like New Balance. For example, when it comes to manufacturing well-made sneakers, New Balance shows a commitment to decent wages for workers in ways few other labels of its size do.