J. Crew New Balance 327 Retro Trainers – $100
About the Author: Adam Terry is a thirtysomething salesman in the HVAC and hydronics industry. He enjoys bourbon, boots, sneakers, raw denim, and working on his
dad bod father figure.
For a lot of us, New Balance is essentially the Allen Edmonds of sneakers. They offer a wide variety of styles, colors, and sizes – from men’s 7 to men’s 16 with widths ranging from extra narrow to double-extra wide. Just like Allen Edmonds, sometimes New Balance takes a stab at something new and colorful to reach a new niche or new audience. This New Balance 327 sneaker is going to be divisive; some will love it, while some will really, really dislike it.
Those are different!
The Adam Review Scale of Excellence (A.R.S.E.)
- 5 – Excellent! No issues and highly recommended.
- 4 – Good. Above average, but not perfect.
- 3 – Average. Minor issues, might be good at the right price.
- 2 – Fair. Below average due to defects, flaws, or imperfections.
- 1 – Poor. Significant issues, not worth purchasing at any price.
- Brand: New Balance
- Style: Retro Trainer
- Size: 10.5 US (10 UK, 44.5 EU)
- Last: N/A
- Construction: Bonwelted (glued)
- Upper: Suede and mesh
- Sole: A giant studded Nacho Cheese Dorito
- Details: Suede and mesh, paracord laces
- Extras: N/A
- Country of Origin: Vietnam
- Price: $100 USD
My pair of NB 327s was ordered from J.Crew on a Wednesday and they arrived on my doorstep on Saturday, just three days later. My pair was shipped via UPS SurePost, which is where UPS hands off certain packages to the U.S. Postal Service for final delivery. While this is usually the most “value focused” delivery option, and can take the longest, it also makes a lot of sense if you’re not in a hurry. The USPS is already delivering mail in your neighborhood, so adding another package is simple.
FYI: J.Crew’s 30-day return policy is par for the course, but do note that you are on the hook for a $7.50 prepaid label if you don’t physically return the goods to a store near you. As always, returned goods should be in unworn, undamaged (not creased) condition for a full refund.
Score: 3/5 Stars – Easy ordering, but shipping could be slow. Online returns are not free.
No frills packaging.
This pair of 327s arrived in the standard New Balance grey, corrugated cardboard box. They were loosely wrapped in a single layer of tissue paper. That’s it, there’s nothing else to write home about. Normally I’d wax on and on about accessories that should have been included, like travel shoe bags, extra laces, or even mini shoe horns, but at this price point, I’m not really sure what to expect. These NBs aren’t exactly cheap, nor are they one of the higher tier, Made in USA pairs either. I feel like an extra pair of these black and orange laces should be included at a minimum; you’re not going to find a replacement set down at your local Wal-Mart.
Score: 3/5 Stars – Box is plain and there were no accessories to speak of.
Fresh out of the box, you can tell that these 327s aren’t your regular New Balance dad sneakers. The most striking thing you’ll notice is the very curvy waist shape that twists and turns and tucks underneath the arch before flaring back out for a blocky heel. This is akin to a fiddleback waist on a fine pair of dress shoes, except this one’s molded out of some dense foam and decidedly less impressive than a hand-lasted Oxford. Honestly I wasn’t expecting this dramatic of a shape, and I don’t hate it, but it’s not particularly comfortable on foot.
These sneaks got curves.
The upper is a two-tone combination of lightweight grey suede and black rip-stop nylon mesh. I can’t tell you how good or bad the suede quality is, as there’s not much to really judge, but I can say that I think it’s chrome tanned as I see the telltale blue hue from the edges. I appreciate the strategic suede panel layout that was designed around the most stressed parts of the shoe (toe, laces, heel, etc.), while the nylon is used elsewhere for more breathability. As usual with New Balance, the N logo was done in a contrasting shade that visually pops. Speaking of visual pops, the nylon lace keeper on the tongue is an eye-watering shade of orange that’s somewhere between blaze orange and nacho cheese gold. Green Bay Packers fans may love these retro themed runners, as they’re designed after vintage/heritage styles that used to be really interesting.. just like the Packers. Zing!
Zesty nacho cheese studded traction.
Rolling the shoes over, you’ll see a continuation of this zesty shade of nacho cheese on the studded outsole. While the color may be your most (or least) favorite part of this pair, the studs will certainly help with traction as you stroll through wet parking lots and walk up slippery steps into your stadium of choice this pigskin season.
Looking inside, there’s a thin, removable foam insole with little to no arch support. If you love this model’s aesthetic, I’d consider spending the extra cheese and getting some replacement insoles from Superfeet, Protalus, or Powerstep to give you a little more support and comfort.
Score: 3/5 Stars – Average materials at best. Style is subjective, but they’re interesting!
Comfort, Fit, and Sizing
In terms of fit and sizing, I recommend trying a half-size up from your Brannock measurement. I tried these in my normal Brannock size of 10.5 US (10 UK, 44.5 EU) to get a feel for how this style runs, and unfortunately, they are a bit too small in both length and width. You should definitely go up a half-size from Brannock, or go with your normal New Balance, Nike, or Adidas size if you know that. Note that this style is not available in wide widths, although New Balance is one of a handful of sneaker brands that does offer various widths.
Thin insole with little arch support to speak of.
Comfort is always subjective, but I find these to be average amongst other sneakers. While they do have a rather large foam midsole, the removable insole is on the thinner side and there’s really nothing there in terms of arch support. Personally, I find my Nike Space Hippie 01s and my Yeezy 350 Boosts to be way more comfortable, although one could argue that those are more expensive and possibly designed more towards comfort and convenience over pure style. If we’re all honest with ourselves, none of these are really designed for the gym or pounding the proverbial pavement. If you’re logging real miles, get some Brooks or Sauconys.
For size reference, I am a 10.5 D/E on a Brannock device and usually take a 10 D in most roomy dress shoes, including Alden’s Barrie last and Grant Stone’s Leo last. I take a 10.5 E in Allen Edmonds 65 last, as that last runs too narrow for me. I also take a 10.5 in Converse/Vans and an 11 in most Adidas/Nike/Jordan/Yeezy sneakers. Have a size question? Email us!
Score: 3/5 Stars – Runs small and there’s a real lack of comfort amenities.
Like Natalie Imbruglia, I’m torn. While I typically enjoy New Balance sneakers, especially their menswear collaboration models with J.Crew, Todd Snyder, Huckberry, etc., these just don’t do it for me. My toddler summed it up best when she called them “pop pop shoes”, aka sneakers that look like they belong to my dad, her grandfather. Between the chunky color-blocked silhouette, the uncomfortable stride, and the less-than-ideal Nacho Cheese Dorito studded sole, I’m just not into them. And that’s perfectly fine, because someone out there (maybe it’s you?) absolutely loves them for everything they are and everything they’re not. Cheers!
Avg. Score: 3/5 Stars – They might be cool for you, but I’m just not that into them.
Not the intelligent choice for Adam.