Does your Dad own this shoe? ASICS, the Japanese brand first known as Onitsuka Tiger, founded by Kihachiro Onitsuka, has a rich legacy of cutting-edge technology and revolutionary style. Founded over 79 years ago, how are these centenarians still kicking about?
With the rise of the Y2K aesthetic and 90s styles, stand-out heritage brands like ASICS are becoming a firm ‘Dad-shoe’ favourite, while others adopt ASICS models for their innovation and focus on comfort. Whether its pure performance, vintage aesthetic, or its expansion into the metaverse, ASICS continues to take large strides forwards.
In and out of fashion, but always ahead of the curve on technology, their founding philosophy, ‘ANIMA SANA IN CORPORE SANO’ translates to ‘a sound mind, in a sound body’, which expresses ASICS’ desire for “people around the world to live healthful, happy lives”. This focus on comfort and performance, meant that ASICS quickly became one of the most recognised sportswear brands for footwear in apparel.
But ASICS really took off in 1950, thanks to something a little unexpected…octopus tentacles.
Founder Onitsuka had been sitting eating a bowl of fresh octopus salad when, inspired by the suckers on the tentacles in his bowl, he had an ingenious idea; to create, in rubber, suctions for shoes to give them a grip as stable as an octopus, and the first classic basketball shoe was born: The Onitsuka tiger suction cup basketball shoe, which was quickly picked up by the Japanese olympians in 1956 as their official shoe. But basketball courts are one thing, how did ASICS make it into the mainstream?
The decades following, ASICS went from strength to strength, as the premiere sportswear brand for working with athletes to create cutting-edge technology like the ASICS GEL material for running shoes, or the split shoe ‘Tabi’ for marathon runners. This ‘Tabi’ shoe, a split sock style shoe, although inspired by 15th century Japan, was ahead of its time both on the runway, and on the track; see: the practical Nike Road Warriors dropped in 2020, or Balenciaga’s less practical FW20 Toe-shoe heels.
ASICS is also credited for using nylon for the first time, extra sponge to absorb shock, and a midsole gel called “alphagel” in 1986 called ‘Gel Lite’, revolutionising shoe design for years to come. And as the brand grew, so did its cultural impact. In 1972, the ASICS’ Mexico 66 shoe was worn by the iconic Bruce Lee in his film ‘The Game of Death’, in a legendary black and yellow ensemble that goes down in Hollywood legend.
Which didn’t stop there, as Quentin Tarantino, in an homage to Lee, in 2003, included both outfit and Mexico 66 trainers, in his film ‘Kill Bill, Volume 1’, worn by Uma Thurman, which hugely revived interest in the brand, and notoriety to the shoe. To this day, the Mexico 66s are the top-selling ASICS model, and perhaps the most recognisable. But that wasn’t quite the tipping point for ASICS recent rise, enter: the Metaverse.
Always pushing to new limits, and never a brand to shy away from technology, both physical and digital, it’s no surprise that ASICS has entered the metaverse just this week. The brand launched Stepn x ASICS NFT Sneaker Mystery Box collection’, the limited-edition NFT trainer collection in collaboration with the ‘move-to-earn’ running app Steppn on the Binance NFT Marketplace.
Participants can download the Steppn app, purchase a Steppn X ASICS co-branded shoe, and head outdoors to rack up the steps, users can then spend these earnings within Stepn or swap out externally for profit, and thus far there are 195,000 participants and subscribed tickets. From tentacle suckers and Hollywood martial-arts cameos to turning steps into money (ish), we’ve walked a mile in ASICS shoes – what can’t they do?
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