Brand Focus: The History Of Asics
In 1949, Kihachiro Onitsuka founded Japanese sport shoe company Onitsuka Tiger, having found a passion for creating sneakers during the reconstruction period after WW2. The brand started out selling basketball shoes, with the soles inspired by the suckers of an octopus tentacle for extra grip, and by 1956 they were kitting out the Japanese Olympic team. This move would go on to inspire the youth of Japan to adopt Onitsuka Tiger for years to come and in turn Asics.
Fast forward to 1977 and the Kobe-based company was renamed ASICS, which is an acronym of the latin phrase anima sana in corpore sano, translating to ‘healthy soul in a healthy body’. The new name would bring a new approach to the brand and would see ASICS evolve to supply general sporting goods, with lines in everything from golf to running and everything in-between. It was starting to become clear at this point that the brand had a knack for athletic footwear. Continuing to find inspiration from unlikely sources, ASICS were able to develop performance shoes that were well ahead of their time.
ASICS success went up and down in the following years, with events like the Japanese economy collapsing in 80’s causing sales to plummet and bouncing back in the 90’s as the European market began to adopt classic Onitsuka Tiger styles. Today both brands live on, with ASICS performance based and Onitsuka Tiger considered more of a lifestyle brand. It’s the largest athletic footwear and apparel company in Japan and the fifth-largest in the world. The core styles from each brand, most notably ASICS, have seen them stay at the forefront of sneaker culture, with the Gel Lyte and Gel Saga silhouettes the focus of some high profile collaborations that have seen others queue up in a bid to develop their own iterations. Their approach to these collaborations, with a huge amount of time given to considered construction and limited production have driven sneaker enthusiasts crazy, playing a huge part in the brands success today.
We are proud to be one of the top tier stockists of ASICS here at Urban Industry and we take a look at some of the key styles we have available right now.
Gel Lyte III – Original Release: 1990
Originally released in 1990, the Gel Lyte III was at the forefront of running technology. It was one of the first silhouettes to feature the brands iconic Gel cushioning system; but the real highlight is the immediately recognizable split-tongue. The split tongue has since become the shoes trademark, originally constructed to avoid the tongue slipping down like a traditional tongue that would sit in the middle, the split-tongue offers up a range of other benefits including protection and comfort. The first iterations of the Gel Lyte III arrived with a lightweight mesh and nylon on the upper with synthetic overlays and pops of 3M reflective materials on the heel and toe. Nowadays, a spate of solid colour ways and new material combinations have seen some great general releases, as well as limited edition collaborations with the likes of Ronnie Fieg, Bait and St.Alfred. Because of this, the Gel Lyte III became one of the most sought after retro runners of today.
Gel Lyte V – Original release: 1993
Due to the number VI being unlucky in Japan, the Gel Lyte V was the official sequel to the ever-popular Gel Lyte III, and as you can probably tell from the name, the V still features the Gel cushioning system and is still as lightweight as its predecessor. The Nike Huarache had a huge impact around this time and ASICS were fully aware of this. The Gel Lyte V took note of some of the Huarache’s unique design features and came up with a mono-stretch collar with an inner-sock style fit for maximum stability. The shoes sole unit was constructed to provide support, while the engineered outsole gave maximum traction to avoid slippage. A lot has to be said for the shoes sleek shape, with a stylish upper constructed from sandwich mesh for comfort and a wavy midsole that did not only look good, but also added to the shoes performance capabilities. Again this shoes owes a lot of its success to the solid reworks being put out by ASICS and through several collaborative adaptations since it was first re-introduced back in 2013.
Gel Saga – Original release: 1990
Released around the same time as its split-tongued counterpart, the Asics Gel Saga is a tried and tested runner, originally designed for long distance events. The Saga is a lot more straightforward in its design and takes a focus on cushioning and comfort for the wearer. The shoe was originally constructed from suede and mesh on the upper with a padded tongue and Gel cushioned sole. The shoe was first re-released back in 2011 and has since followed the path of the Gel Lyte III and V into a range of collabs and reworks. But its the Gel Saga’s rich performance heritage that truly makes it a great shoe and has earned its status as the brands most dependable running silhouette.