New Balance’s 991 Is Hender Scheme’s Next All-Leather Homage


There’s a reason that Hender Scheme’s delightfully devilish “manual industrial products” (MIP) shoes are the Japanese company’s best-known product line: they’re simply a joy to behold. It’s the insider-y wink of a familiar sneaker silhouette made beautiful through handcrafted layers of luscious veg-tanned leather. What’s not to like?

Next up for Hender Scheme is New Balance’s timeless 991, a running shoe that ought to be terribly familiar to anyone keeping up with tastemaking collaborators like Aimé Leon Dore and Dover Street Market.

For the uninitiated, Hender Scheme has been reimagining iconic shoes like the L.L Bean boot and Nike’s Air Force 1 for years as part of the MIP line, occasionally referred to in Japan as the “HOMAGE” series.

Previous Hender Scheme references range from instantly recognizable styles like Timberland’s 6″ boot, Crocs’ Classic Clog, and the Vans Slip-On to more niche silhouettes, like Reebok’s Alien Stomper and Nike’s Air Kukini.

The point isn’t to pick out the most famous sneakers, necessarily, but to celebrate the models most loved in Japan and by Hender Scheme founder Ryo Kashiwazaki.

New Balance’s 991 provides the basis of the latest MIP design, launching as part of Hender Scheme’s Winter/Spring 2023 collection on December 3 in Japan and later abroad (Hender Scheme eschews typical Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter designations for Winter/Spring and Summer/Fall).

The manual industrial products 28 (New Balance 991) is exactly what you’d expect of Hender Scheme: carefully stitched layers of veg-tanned leather that’ll patina and age with wear atop a leather sole similarly designed to soften.

It’s worth nothing that Hender Scheme’s manual industrial products shoes are not sneakers, however. Hender Scheme does make sneakers but the MIP series is comprised exclusively of leather shoes made with a tradition last, hammered leather sole, and stitched construction typical of high-end leather shoes.

That means no cushioning, no arch support, and none of the comfort of a normal New Balance. On the flip side, the manual industrial products kicks will likely outlast any conventional sneaker and can be resoled as often as needed.

Elsewhere in Winter/Spring 2023, Hender Scheme is serving up carryalls reminiscent of the inimitable L.L Bean Boat n’ Tote bag, slip-on shoes akin to its Birkenstock-like mules, leather pouches, hats, neckties, and even a leather yoga mat, which honestly sounds like a bad time.

Hender Scheme recently introduced its latest (and final) collaboration with The North Face.

Coincidentally, the hip Japanese branch of New Balance, New Balance TOKYO DESIGN STUDIO, only just rolled out its own veg-tanned leather shoe.

It’s not quite a backwards reference to Hender Scheme but the vibes are similar, though The TDS New Balance 574 is likely more challenging to style than the Hender Scheme 991.

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