Around a hundred miles north the city of Manchester, beyond the sprawling Yorkshire Dales National Park and tucked within a 1,200-person village is one of England’s favorite sneaker outlets. Located an hour east of New Balance’s beloved Flimby factory is the Shap store. To brand Shap with the “if you know, you know” distinction isn’t quite accurate, at least among locals: It’s well-traveled by enthusiasts and casual shoppers alike. But what makes the outlet so special isn’t elusiveness, it’s its selection (a breadth of discounted new and obscure releases) and staff (longtime store manager Ruth and company are known for their hospitality).
To pay respect to Shap’s place in UK sneaker culture and tell its story to a wider global audience, Italian retail powerhouse Slam Jam is weaving it into its latest collaboration. Working on the made-in-England New Balance 991 model, Slam Jam set out to design a sneaker that was suitable for everyday wear. Shades of black and grey make up the sneaker in a mix of materials including ripstop nylon, pigskin leather, and rubber overlays. Paired alongside a matching waterproof tracksuit, the sneakers make use of a similar weather-resistant configuration.
The 991 serves as a continuation of Slam Jam and New Balance’s first collaboration, a 990v3 released in 2019 for Slam Jam’s 30th anniversary. The 990v3 was designed with an “unfinished” theme and limited to only 89 pairs, although Slam Jam founder Luca Benini tells Complex that the 991 will be far more available with a release both at his store and at select retailers worldwide.
“[The 991 is] the natural evolution of the 990v3 that looked incomplete on purpose,” Benini says. “That reflects Slam Jam’s language made of our attention to subtle details, while keeping items very wearable yet distinctive.”
To emphasize the evolution of its first campaign, New York-based photographer Katie Burnett employed a theme reminiscent of the one used for the 990v3. Burnett’s hyper-stylized black-and-white photos show both the sneakers and the co-branded apparel in action.
As for the Shap outlet, it will be one of the exclusive retailers for the Slam Jam x New Balance 991, which will launch first at Shap and Slam Jam on May 7 followed by a wider drop at select retailers on May 13 for €230.
Meta, on-the-nose sneaker designs are nothing new—look no further than Nike’s numerous shipping and shoebox-themed colorways or New Balance’s own “Grey Day” styles—but the Slam Jam x New Balance 991 represents something bigger.
“When we visited Shap some years back, we just loved it,” Benini says. “We feel that represents the priceless value of the behind-the-scenes work that doesn’t necessarily happen in key cities. There are great examples to look at. Even Slam Jam was born in the outskirts of Ferrara, and that’s where our headquarters still are.”