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ASICS, the tiger of Japan

ASICS. Made of Japan.

The Japanese brand ASICS embodies all the grace and the balanced aesthetics for which the land of the rising sun is known worldwide. ASICS carefully produces top quality athletic shoes, clothing, accessories and sports equipment, with an eye to the minimalistic and clean design which are typical of Japan, always employing the best materials available.

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ASICS: sports and sound mind.

The name ASICS is an acronym for the Latin phrase “Anima sana in corpore sano”, which translates to “a healthy soul in a healthy body”. This is a good example of the spirit with which ASICS’ founder Kihachiro Onitsuka started the company back in 1949, in post-war Kobe, Japan. He saw the need for the Japanese youth to regain hope and motivation after the tragedy and devastation of WWII, and thought that sport could be the answer. So he founded ASICS, which at the time was called “Onitsuka”, and started producing basketball shoes, to make sports equipment more easily accessible to the Japanese population. Needless to say, the company proved successful and soon began producing shoes, accessories and equipment for more and more sports, like tennis, running, etc.

Kill Bill and the Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66

Made immortal by Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” movies, the Onitsuka Tiger “Mexico 66” model is an iconic and easily recognizable shoe that is probably one of the most popular and successful produced by the ASICS brand. In the Kill Bill movies, actress Uma Thurman wore a pair of yellow Mexico 66 shoes with black stripes and a customized sole sporting a bold “f*** u” engraving. While the offensive sole has never been scheduled for production, the black and yellow version of the shoe is available to both Kill Bill and ASICS fans, although the model’s original colour combination has a white upper with red and blue stripes. The brand under which the Mexico 66 shoe is sold, Onitsuka Tiger, is the label under which ASICS sells its vintage line.

ASICS GEL®

During the 70s and 80s, when running started to become more and more popular, ASICS started to think about the best way to protect the runners’ feet during the run. The first running shoes where not made to cushion and absorb the impacts with the ground, which could lead to injuries and pain. So ASICS designed a new shoe which could reduce the shock, by adding a layer of gel between the insole and the outsole. That was how, in 1986, ASICS GEL® was born. The GEL® technology is now used in multiple ASICS shoes, as the gel not only improves the running experience, but it overall increases the enjoyability of the shoe. The gel-equipped collection includes: the GEL Kayano, for running; the GEL Intensity 3, for training; the GEL Volleycross Revolution MT, for volleyball; the GEL Solution Speed 2, for tennis; the GEL Electro 33, for running; the GEL Nimbus and the GEL Cumulus, for running. But also lifestyle models have been equipped with gel, for a more comfortable day at school or in the office: they are the GEL Lyte III, the GEL Lyte V, and the GT II.

ASICS in numbers

While ASICS’ popularity knows no boundaries, it does not surprise to know that half of its sales still happen in its homeland, Japan. And of all total profits worldwide, 70% of the company’s income comes from shoes.

ASICS as a sponsor

Since 2011, ASICS is sponsoring Australia’s national Cricket Team. ASICS also sponsors football teams, Japan’s national Basketball team, Japanese boxers Hiroki Ioka and Hozumi Hasegawa, the national Field Hockey teams of Australia and the USA, Japanese golfers Shingo Katayama and Rui Kitada, many tennis players, and volleyball teams (including Italy and the Netherlands).

ASICS and Nike

Did you know that Nike was born to sell Onitsuka Tiger shoes in the US? It was 1963 when Phil Knight, Nike’s co-founder, travelled to Japan and was fascinated by the high quality and affordable prices of Onitsuka Tiger shoes. He managed to become Onitsuka Tiger’s sales agent in the USA, and founded the Nike company to this purpose. Nike even hired engineers from Onitsuka when it started producing its own line of shoes, and its first shoes were actually produced in Japan.

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