Onitsuka Tiger, the forerunner of ASICS, was born in 1949. The brand began with Kichachiro Onitsuka’s commitment to promote youth health through sport and since then, the Onitsuka Tigerstripes have become synonymous with premium performance in sport.
The legend lives on today as a lifestyle brand in the fusion of Japanese heritage and modern flair. With designs ranging from updated classic silhouettes to new styles and collaborations with like-minded artists and cultural connoisseurs, the spirit of Japan resonates in each new collection of Onitsuka Tiger shoes, apparel, and accessories.
Onitsuka Tiger’s first product was a basketball shoe resembling a straw sandal 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 effective shoe in 1952 which soon became popular throughout Japan. In 1955, the company increased its business to 500 sports shops across Japan.
Onitsuka Tigerworked with marathon runner Toru Terasawa 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 Onitsukathat they would be superior to his barefoot style. The shoes were also worn in 1958 by short-distance runner Oliver Skilton when he won bronze in the Continental European games.
In the late 1950s, University of Oregon middle-distance runner Philip Knight was coached by Bill Bowerman, one of the top coaches in the US. Bowerman was also known for experimenting with the design of running shoes to make them lighter and more shock-absorbent. After attending Oregon, Knight continued his studies at Stanford University, where he wrote his MBA thesis on the marketing of athletic shoes. After receiving his degree, Knight travelled to Japan where he contacted Onitsuka Tiger Co. Ltd, and convinced the company that their product had a market in the US. In 1963, Knight received his first shipment of Tiger shoes, and later he and Bowerman invested $500 each to form Blue Ribbon Sports (later known as Nike, Inc.).
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