With Kanye-dependency withdrawal at Adidas and engineered-scarcity blowback at Nike, the sneakerhead world has evolved into a legitimate plurality, and New Balance seems better equipped than anyone to capitalize. Joshua Hunt explains the company’s self-aware dadness with the context and verve to make this a rewarding read — even for those who never braved a predawn line outside Undefeated.

Understanding the evolution of the 990 is a useful way of appreciating how New Balance, America’s most sensible sneaker brand, has captured the zeitgeist in these decidedly nonsensical times. When the 990 was launched in 1982, its four years of development made it the first running shoe with a $100 retail price; a decade or so later, it found new life as a casual sneaker worn by dressed-down celebrities at red-carpet events; and by the turn of the millennium, the 990 had achieved a bizarre niche ubiquity among subcultures as disparate as straight-edge hardcore kids, underground hip-hop fans, and Upper West Side dads. Puzzling out how all of this came to be, and how New Balance managed to bridge the aesthetic gap between Bernie Sanders and Emily Ratajkowski to become one of the most coveted shoes on the planet—while in the process reordering the global pecking order in the $86 billion sneaker market—reveals one of the more improbable success stories in fashion right now.