“I could pick something other than New Balance sneakers to wear in an effort to express my will, but in doing so I would be part of the “fashion trend” AWAY from plain white sneakers and TOWARDS whatever it is the gods of commerce want old people to buy next.”
I would like to gently suggest that there are criteria other than fashion and consumer identity to choose your shoes by… and if you’re probably going to buy/wear the same pair of runners for the rest of your life, why not do some googling and sort out exactly what you want from those runners? If anyone compliments your outfit you can safely change the topic to your excellent ethics and sustainability criteria and the easy-but-clever research you did to find them… thus impressing them with your consumer savvy and making the world an even better place by encouraging them to reconsider their own shoe-buying criteria. I wish we lived in a world where finding ethical products didn’t require research, and potentially mail-order, but that won’t change unless we do the work to reward companies for high ethical standards.
I googled “New Balance ethical” and got some links to compare different brands via environmental and human rights considerations (New Balance is pretty good for a big brand, manufacturing-wise, but still using PVC which results in pretty nasty pollution; there are definitely more conscientious options): http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/buyersguides/clothing/trainers.aspx http://www.thegoodshoppingguide.com/ethical-shoes-and-trainers/
Worth noting that info can vary from country to country and over time, so it’s a good idea to assess the quality of your sources and check multiple sources for variations. Also worth noting that I already know I am annoying :)