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2002r Protection Pack

The New Balance 2002 came out in 2010 as a comfortable lifestyle runner built with a high-quality leather and suede upper and an outsole padded with squishy gel cushioning. However, it was the shoe’s 2020 revival that truly thrust it into the public consciousness. The updated 2002R added modern cushioning technologies to the outsole, offering enhanced comfort alongside its stylish aesthetic. By 2021, dozens of versions had already been created, and New Balance designer Yue Wu had been tasked with developing a collection to revamp the sneaker once more. Although quite new to the lifestyle division, Wu’s desire to elicit powerful emotions with his work saw him create a deconstructed model that significantly altered the look of the original. The first colourways came as part of the Refined Future pack, so named because of Wu’s observation that New Balance shoes were hard-wearing and still looked good after years of use. However, this soon came to be known as the 2002R Protection Pack – an ever-growing collection that today contains some of the most desirable of all New Balance sneakers.

The New Balance 2002R Protection Pack launched with a trio of designs, each featuring the supportive combination of an ABZORB midsole and responsive N-ergy gel padding for extra shock absorption in the heel and forefoot. They also have a rebellious aesthetic produced by the rough edges of the suede overlays in the forefoot, quarter and heel and the exposed foam on the top edge of the tongue, while the familiar “N” logo resides on each sidewall and subtle 2002R text can be found on the lateral heel. The debut colourways were the stealthy Phantom, with its black and dark grey colour scheme, and the elegant Sea Salt, whose all white build includes smooth leather panels on the sides of the forefoot and collar instead of the mesh seen on the other two models. The colour palette of the Rain Cloud – the third and final shoe in the pack – sits somewhere between its peers, with a mixture of grey hues spread across its leather, suede and mesh upper that earned it a place on many favourites lists at the end of 2021.

The incredible success of these first three shoes led New Balance to bolster the number of colourways in the 2002R Protection Pack by seven in 2022. One of the earliest to be added was the Pink edition, which brings together a blend of pastel pink, purple and magenta tones on the suede panels layered across its breathable mesh upper. Later in the year, the Distressed colourway fully embraced the worn look associated with the pack, swapping out suede for off-white pieces of textile and leather with a blackened shading as though they have seen many years of wear. This was followed by the Light Arctic Grey, whose dapper upper shifted from pale grey through violet blue and into a darker purple on the suede panel behind the New Balance logo on each flank.

As the fourth quarter of 2022 came around, three more distinct colourways were released, each with its own tonal and material take on Wu’s 2002R design. The Dark Navy has deep blue suede overlays with a textured exterior atop a mesh base in a light aquamarine tone, the bands of white leather flowing over it giving the design a richly refined look. In contrast, the Vintage Orange goes with a much brighter aesthetic created by the radiant shade of orange that covers its smooth suede and mesh outer, strongly emphasising its pristine white branding effects. The third was the Mirage Grey, which offers a more weathered-looking suede with a grey green finish over a teal-coloured mesh, with a white and cream midsole bringing lighter effects alongside the muted upper. Capping off 2022 was the Lunar New Year or Dusty Lilac colourway, which incorporates gentle pink throughout its mesh underlayer, lilac and dark grey over its shaggy suede panels, and a pleasant cream on its laces and midsole. 

Moving into 2023, the New Balance 2002R Protection Pack continued to gain momentum, and the range was expanded even further. The first half of the year delivered a run of four sneakers, each with a more cohesive colour scheme than the 2022 releases. All of them are built upon a grippy black outsole and a well-cushioned midsole in white and beige, but the upper is where they differ, beginning with the Black colourway, whose dark suede overlays reveal charcoal-coloured mesh and light grey leather where they have been cut away. Like the other three in this group, it has N-ergy lettering printed onto the “N” emblem on each sidewall, as well as in the usual place on the lateral midsole. In fact, this detail is unique to these members of the Protection Pack and can be seen on the next shoe to be released in the spring of 2023: the Navy colourway. This one has a dark blue theme across the tongue, suede panels and mesh, with hints of lighter blue on its middle layers. The two remaining designs were launched around the same time – the Slate Grey combining a stylish range of grey tones, and the Driftwood decorating its various elements with sandy tan and beige hues.

In the second half of 2023, four more 2002Rs were added to the Protection Pack, once again with a group of intriguing features specific to this particular set. While retaining the same deconstructed appearance of the rest of the pack, these four all opt for a tough ripstop material where their predecessors have a mesh underlayer, some even using traditional leather on the overlays instead of suede. The most noticeable difference, though, is on the laces, which have a more rope-like style and are secured by an adjustable toggle at the top rather than the traditional tying method. Like the earlier designs from 2023, they all have a consistent tonal theme throughout, which is evident on the light tan and cream tones decorating the Sandstone colourway. Another one, called the Eclipse, dons deep blues on its nubuck overlays and displays black accents around its heel and across the inner. The High Desert has an assortment of earthy brown tones pervading its various layers, while the Dark Moss likewise evokes natural images with its deep olive green overlays.

Despite the fact that Yue Wu’s offbeat version of the 2002R has only been around for a few years, it has already taken the sneaker world by storm, earning it a popularity most others can only dream of. With an ever-increasing roster of classy colourways, the New Balance 2002R Protection Pack doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon as fans eagerly await the next iterations that will no doubt be released in the years to come.

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