Sneakers are on the rise to become the preferred footwear by everyone, ideal for almost every occasion. Once limited to gymnasiums and basketball courts, the kicks have become fashion statements, a part of popular culture and even a conversation starter for how sports, music and fashion mesh together. This is so often the focus that we forget why they were made in the first place. No, they weren’t solely produced to make a statement or elevate your status, and no, sneakers are not merely fashion accessories. They were created, first and foremost, for physical activity that promotes a healthy lifestyle. ASICS never forgets this, even when they launched iconic sneakers through the years. Every product is created with this in mind since the beginning.
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From humble to recognizable
In post-war Japan, Kihachiro Onitsuka was becoming discontent with being a salaryman. He also can’t help but notice the demoralized youth, often exhibiting signs of poor self-esteem. Soon enough, he realized a business idea that would change his situation and would potentially help the young people of Japan: creating sneakers. See, Kihachiro Onitsuka believed in the importance of physical fitness. To him, it was more than just keeping the body in a healthy state; exercise and sports can also uplift the spirit. He thought sneakers could encourage physical activity, and in turn make healthier and happier people out of the youth. Plus, Japan was short in footwear after the war, so this was ideal.
The eponymous Onitsuka Co., was founded in 1949. The first release from the company was its basketball shoes. Despite the difficulty in creating them, they carried on, and had the shoes emblazoned with a tiger’s face on the shoe’s arch. In the following decades, the company experienced an expansion in the types of footwear it released. Rather than just limiting their expertise, the company soon manufactured footwear for all sorts of sports: running, skiing, gymnastics, tennis, and even golfing and mountain climbing. It also rebranded to Onitsuka Tiger, and had every model feature the signature tiger logo and stripes. The recognition of the brand slowly went beyond Japan, receiving moderate exposure in athletics events such as the Olympics.
While offering great shoes way into the 1970s, Onitsuka Tiger was operating in the midst of a critical time for the Japanese economy. Its decent performance would not make the cut. In 1977, Onitsuka Tiger signed on a deal to merge with GTO Co. and Jelenk Co. to survive. This resulted in the sports company and name we know today and admire—ASICS Corporation.
Dedication to research and development
The new name ASICS is still in line with the company founder’s vision, as the acronym is derived from a Latin phrase Anima Sana In Corpore Sano, which means “a sound mind inside a sound body”. Consequently, every idea and release from the company was intended to stay true to the philosophy. To achieve this, ASICs has even established the Research Institute of Sports Science in Kobe in 1990 to develop and improve technology that would make each shoe the best for any type of activity. The institute has state of the art facilities to test its products such as test rooms, a running track and sports halls. It also employs the best of scientists so that users can perform at their peak, feel better about themselves, and enjoy the process. Some of the technology that was born in the institute include ASICS shoes’ anti-overpronation features, shock absorption, water-resistant clothing and Wet Grip Rubber.
Athletes endorsing the brand and their coaches also visit the site regularly to make sure that the equipment they’re using are suitable to their measurements and will best perform in achieving their goals. ASICS makes regular coordination with those who use their products to learn more from them and develop better apparel and equipment.
A few of the iconic shoes
Among ASICS’ most memorable shoes is one of its firsts, the basketball shoes that founder Kihachiro Onitsuka had in mind. The first basketball shoe, released in 1950, did not perform as the founder would have wanted, but the reissue in 1953 became a hit among athletes, including Japan’s basketball team, and schoolchildren. The tiger logo wasn’t the only thing unique about the sneakers; they were also distinguished for the rubber that was shaped like an octopus’ suckers to make the shoes firmly grip on the feet.
Another oldie but goodie is the brand’s GT-II, first introduced to the world in 1986. It is the first of the ASICS sneakers to use the company’s gel technology, which softens the impact on the feet and keeps them in tip-top shape to perform. It is easily comparable to other bigger companies’ innovations, with both the technology and the shoe becoming mainstays for ASICS.
The Gel Lyte sneaker was first released in 1967, but its most iconic iteration is probably the ASICS Gel Lyte V. The unique design made it memorable to both fans and shoppers, with the shoe’s material appearing to be sock-like. The V, made in 1993, has seen many re-releases since then, appealing to buyers both aesthetically and in function.
An industry and streetwear favorite
No brand is perfect, and ASICS had its fair share of challenges along the way. But today it has survived and now has a long and remarkable history that justifies its rise to becoming the fifth biggest sports footwear manufacturer in the world. It is not only highly respected in the sports industry but also transitioned into a brand popular among sneaker aficionados. With its iconic shoes making their comeback and the company’s dedication to improving its technology as well as creating shoes with improving well-being in mind, we will undoubtedly see more to come from the Japanese brand.