How it all began
Kihachiro Onitsuka, a former military officer, founded the sneaker company Asics back in 1949 in his Japanese hometown of Kobe shortly after the end of the Second World War. The children’s footwear manufacturer had the dream to create a product that could bring the people and the war-torn country back together again and help Japan recover from the tough years it had come through. Onitsuka believed that physical exercise and sports were brilliant ways to reconnect the health and happiness not only of individuals, but also of Japanese society.
Onitsuka soon came up with a way to revolutionize basketball players’ footwear. It was his intention to manufacture sports sneakers that would help his countrymen win sports competitions worldwide.
Back in the 1940s basketball sneakers lacked sufficient grip, a big handicap for players who were liable to slip on the court. It took many attempts before Onitsuka managed to improve the grip capability of his sneakers. It was while eating octopus salad at a restaurant – yes, really – that he found his inspiration. One of the octopus tentacles stuck to his bowl. Onitsuka realized that the way to improve basketball sneakers was to design the shoe soles with suction pads attached to them, much like those on a tentacle of an octopus.
In 1951 Kihachiro Onitsuka released the Onitsuka Tiger basketball shoe that was redesigned with grips that helped basketball players stop and go on the court, without any fear of slipping. It was just what the Japanese Olympic basketball team had been waiting for.
Worldwide expansion and popularity
The Tiger paved the way for Asics’ rapid growth and development over the following decades. Asics designed shoes for other sports as well, besides basketball. Onitsuka created shoes for running, volleyball, tennis and many more activities. He also branched out to manufacture activewear for all types of sports players.
In 1977 Asics took a big step to internationalize its brand by expanding manufacturing to the USA. Offices and factories soon sprang up all over the world. Asics became popular worldwide and their sneakers became an official pop-culture icon after martial arts actor Bruce Lee was seen wearing a pair of classic yellow and black Asics on the set of the movie “Game of Death”.
Some of the coolest collabs
Asics started an early deal with Nike founder Phil Knight and that has led to some of the coolest sneaker collabs and stories in history. Asics has been perfecting sports sneakers over the past 70 years. In that time, the company has had the chance to collaborate with some of the most successful brands from all over the world, manufacturing some very creative and technologically advanced sneakers.
One of the most legendary Asics collabs was in 2015 with the German boutique Afew. Taking inspiration from Japan’s famous red white and black koi carp, the “Koi” Gel-Lyte III featuring Asics’ gel cushioning system soon became a sneakerhead must-have.
A more recent very successful collab began in 2018 with the Bulgarian fashion designer Kiko Kostadinov. It was the perfect opportunity for Asics to work with a well-known fashion designer, and at the same time get more brand recognition and reach a broader audience. The two-year collab produced six co-branded sneakers combining technology, one of Asics main values, and meeting the high fashion standard set by Kiko Kostadinov. The collaboration might have ended, but we can look forward to lots more great designs since Kiko Kostadinov has joined Asics as creative director!
Today Asics is known for being innovative and providing high quality footwear. The sneaker brand has maintained coherence and expanded widely on its core products. From casual to stylish sportswear to some of the best footwear made for women and men, Asics product line has it all.