Onitsuka Tiger is an internationally renowned shoe company which has been supplying athletic footwear since the 1940s to basketball and football players as well as dozens of other athletes and sports stars around the world.
Onitsuka Tiger is one of the oldest shoe companies in Japan, tracing its history back to the formation of Onitsuka Co Ltd in 1949 when the 31 year old former military officer, Onitsuka started his company with the hopes of raising postwar youth self-esteem through athletics.
Onitsuka Tiger’s first product was a basketball shoe resembling a straw sandle in many ways. The design was discarded by many and Onitsuka returned to the design stage to better acclimate his shoes for the way in which basketball players started and stopped on the floor. By adding cups and small spaces in the soles of his basketball shoes, Onitsuka made a more effecitve shoe in 1952 which soon became popular throughout Japan.
Onitsuka Tiger worked with Marathon runner Tooru Terasaw in 1953 to develop a running shoe that would keep long distance runners from developing blisters. Legendary Ethiopian runner, Abebe Bikila started wearing Onitsuka Tiger shoes in 1957, the first time in his running career he had ever worn shoes, convinced by Onitsuka that they would be superior to his barefoot style.
In 1972, GTO, Jelenk, and Onitsuka combined their financial and athletic positions to build a regional sales offce near Hokkaido for the Sapporo Winter Olympics that would lead to the eventual 1977 merger of all three companies known as ASICS. Today, the company is still known as ASICS and provides shoes to retailers around the globe. The ASICS acronym stands for “Anima Sana in Corpore Sano” or “A Sound Mind in a Sound Body.” The company has recently placed significant emphasis on the translation of the acronym.
Since 1949 when Onitsuka Tiger was first incorporated, shoes have been created for football, running, martial arts, basketball, cheerleading, volleyball, cross-training, track and field, wrestling, golf, cricket, and tennis. The most famous and enduring brand of Onitsuka Tiger shoes, even to date is the striped Mexico 66 Line of athletic shoes.
To date, Asics still produces a wide array of vintage style Onitsuka Tiger shoes, including the Mexico 66, for worldwide distribution. Though Asics has grown into an international powerhouse athletic supplier, securing the official athletic apparel sponsorship of the 2006 Winter Olympics and grossing nearly 171 billion Yen annually, they stay true to their roots and the Onitsuka Tiger label.