History of Sneakers II: Nike and ASICS

Hello again and thank you for visiting us at Sneakermin, we love sneakers, the more retro the more we love! In Part 2 of the history of sneakers, we’re looking at 2 more iconic brands – Nike and Asics. Let’s hit the road… or shall we “just do it”…

History of Sneakers – Nike

Not quite as pioneering as Converse or Keds, but another interesting piece of the history of sneakers jigsaw puzzle nonetheless.Here’s a brief timeline of Nike sneakers.

1963 – Blue Ribbon Sports is formed by University of Portland running coach Bill Bowerman and middle-distance runner Phil Knight. Their goal is to supply high-tech low cost running shoes as an alternative to the Adidas and Puma brands dominating the US market.

Blue Ribbon Sports imports and sells sneakers from Japan, made by Onitsuka Tiger Co.

1964 – After 1 year in business, Blue Ribbon Sports has sold 1300 pairs of sneakers.

1965 – Phil Knights’ running rival, Jeff Johnson, is Blue Ribbon Sports’ first full time sales-person, selling shoes out of the back of his van at track meets and athletics events in the region.

1966 – Blue Ribbon Sports opens it’s first store on Pico Boulevard, in Santa Monica California.

1970 – Blue Ribbon Sports move from reselling imported shoes, to designing and making their own. Bill Bowerman takes inspiration from a waffle-iron, pouring rubber into the family breakfast appliance, inventing the soon-to-be-famous waffle sole.

1971 – Blue Ribbon Sports moves on from selling imported Onitsuka Tiger sneakers and, with the new waffle sole design, begin making their own sneakers. A new company is born, called Nike, after the Greek Goddess of victory, whom Jeff Johnson had dreamed about.

1972 – The world recognized Swoosh, designed by Carolyn Davidson to represent the wing of the Goddess Nike is first seen on Nike sneakers.

1976 – The Nike slogan “There is no finish line” and add campaign are released.

1984 – Michael Jordan signs an endorsement contract with Nike and releases the Air Jordan, his first signature shoe. The NBA bans this new sneaker for breaching NBA uniform code, fining MJ $5,000 each time he plays in Air Jordan sneakers. The fines generate incredible publicity for the sneaker and for Nike. The Air Jordan sneaker marks a key event for Nike, leading to successful future growth.

1988 – “Just Do It” is released as Nike’s new slogan, this one really sticks!

1989 – Nike introduces new cross training footwear designed for use in training for multiple sports. American football and baseball athlete Bo Jackson stars in the successful “Bo Knows.” add series.

1990 – Nike opens the first Niketown store in downtown Portland, Ore., and the store quickly earns numerous retail design and business awards. Over the next 10 years, Nike opens 14 more Niketown stores across the USA and in England and Germany.

2002 – Nike buys Hurley, the surfer clothing company.

2003 – Nike buys Converse for $305 million.

2004 – Nike buys Starter and Umbro. Umbro supply kit for the England football (soccer) team.

2005 – Air Jordan XX, the 20th edition of the sneaker is released. The Nike Considered range of sneakers is released.

2012 – By 2012 Nike consolidates its acquisitions and sells Starter (in 2007) and Umbro (in 2012), retaining Hurley and Converse.

Onto the history of Asics Sneakers

History of ASICS Sneakers Onitsuka Co

1948 Working man Kihachiro Onitsuka starts his own company, to make sneakers for school children. Onitsuka Co opens with 4 employees in Kobe city, Japan.

1950 Onitsuka Co releases its first competition sneakers. Prototypes were developed with the help of local shoe manufacturer Yoshikawa Rubber Industry and tested and refined with the help of local Kobe High School basketball team. The tiger logo placed on the shoes arch marked the start of the Onitsuka Tiger.

1950 Inspired by the octopus on his dinner table, Onitsuka develops suction-cup soled basket ball shoes, for increased starting and stopping performance. The stopping performance is too strong and results in player injuries! The suction cup sole design is modified into a more suitable sole.

1952 OK (Onitsuka Kihachiro) basketball sneakers are released. These are higher-end quality sports sneakers. Tiger mark volleyball shoes are also released.

1953 Onitsuka opens the Tiger Rubber Factory, their own in-house rubber factory, again in Kobe city. Sneaker production moves into full swing for basketball as well as running, volleyball, tennis, softball and mountain climbing.

1954 Tiger Rubber Factory burns down due to nearby fire, operations are suspended from June to August of that year.

1955 Tiger nylon golf shoes are first released, followed by shoes for gymnasts and wrestlers.

1957 Tiger Rubber Factory is reorganized into Onitsuka Co Ltd.

1959 Gold Tiger tennis sneakers, with herringbone soles are released. The soles are designed to improve start, stop and reaction time.

1965 Onitsuka and Tiger brands are unified into Ontsuka Tiger

1969 Blue Ribbon Sports, who will soon become Nike, start selling Onitsuka Tiger sneakers.

1972 Onitsuka Co opens a US office in Chicago, Illinois. Onitsuka moves the office to Los Angeles California within a year.

1973 Layup NL Basketball sneakers are released. These sneakers, with the different colorways available, could be matched to team uniforms and were fashionable for wearing after games as well.

What does ASICS mean?

Before we continue, what does ASICS mean or where did the name come from? In establishing his company, Onitsuka was inspired by the words of Roman Poet Juvenal, offered to him by a colleague – “Pray for a sound mind in a sound body” (Latin translation “Anima Sana in Corpore Sano”- ASICS).

OK on with the history of ASICS sneakers…

1975 Onitsuka Tiger GmbH opens in Dusseldorf, West Germany as the European base of Onitsuka.

1977 Overseas production begins in West Germany with the opening of ASICS Mobus GmbH.

1977 ASICS Corp is formed by the merger of Onitsuka Co., Ltd., GTO Co., Ltd., and Jelenk Co.

1978 ASICS releases California jogging shoes, such as the Corsair.

1981 ASICS Tiger Corp headquarters is established in California.

From here ASICS Tiger opens offices in Brazil, Australia and other countries across the world and makes sneakers and sports gear for base-ballers, golfers, fishers, cheerleaders and more. Personally, I like the easily recognized logo, which is on every shoe I’ve seen.

In Conclusion

I think Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight were pretty astute in the early days, with a vision of high-tech and affordable sneakers and kept control of their direction by making their own once they were established. With all that have gone before and after, it’s hard not to think of Michael Jordan, when you think of Nike, even though King James is the Nike player of our times.

The inspiration of both companies from Greek mythology, Goddess Nike and Roman culture, the poet Juvenal seems to maintain a fitting connection between the companies. May Nike and ASICS both keep making their sneakers forever, with their unique style and personality.

So that’s a brief history of sneakers for Blue Ribbon Sports aka Nike and Onitsuka Tiger, aka ASICS. What’s your take? Your feedback is welcomed.

Where to now? Dunlop and Bata are 2 historical brands of interest, as are Reebok and New Balance. We look forward to adding those stories to the history of sneakers, Sneakermin style.

Thank you again for visiting us. We hope there was something interesting for you in the article.

Wishing you a sole-ful day.

Sneakermin, out.

A Brief History of Sneakers (Just About).

Hi and thank you again for reading this article about the history of shoes, especially the history of sneakers. If you search for information about the history of sneakers (starting with the first shoes), it goes something like this:

Earliest Shoes and Who Owned Them:

The earliest shoes were discovered in a cave in Armenia way back around 3000+ BC. They were a moccasin type shoe, made from animal skin. For many centuries only the very wealthy could even contemplate owning a pair of shoes. Only from the 19th Century, when mass-production processes and technology advances came about, was owning a pair of shoes a possibility for us common folk.

776 BC, Greek athletes run barefoot in the Olympics. Soon after they begin running in sandals to protect their feet.

There’s folk-lore that King Henry VIII owned a pair (the first pair ever) of tennis shoes in 1517. This factoid will need further investigation to verify!

Modern History of Sneakers:

In short we go from plimsolls to rubber soled Keds to “sneakers”, athletic shoes and basketball shoes to the sneaker universe – where it’s not just about footwear, it’s a lot more about us and our sneakers.

History of Sneakers Timeline:

1830’s – Walt Webster patents a process whereby rubber soles could be attached to shoes or boots. The result was…. Plimsolls. Plimsolls were crude first generation kicks, which didn’t even have left and right feet!
1832 – Charles Goodyear invents “vulcanization” – the process of heating rubber and adding sulphur to improve the strength and flexibility of the rubber. Vulcanization helps to prevent rubber from becoming brittle in Winter or sticky in Summer and makes it easier to make rubber-soled shoes.

1864 – Lyman Reed Blake of America invents a shoe-stitching machine. The shoe and sneaker universe is about to change.

1890’s – The US Rubber Co makes a canvas-uppered shoe with rubber soles. Rubber soled sneakers were more comfortable and flexible than other shoes, making them ideal for a spot of croquet, tennis, yachting, running or even a game of cricket (by joves, lovely shot old chap!).

By the end of the 1800’s and into the early 1900’s sports and outdoor pursuits were rising in popularity. Two companies emerged as icons of the new sport-shoe universe – Keds and Converse.

1900’s Converse All Stars


In 1908, Marquis Converse founds his Converse Shoe Company, making shoes for children, women and men.

1912 – the first tennis shoes are produced.

1917 – Sneakers are now being mass produced.

Also in 1917, the world’s first and most iconic basketball shoe is released, the Converse All Star. A year later in 1918, Charles H Taylor of the Akron Firestones basketball club, bought his first pair of Converse All Stars and through his playing, introduced them to America.

1921 – Charles “Chuck” Taylor officially joins the Converse Shoe Co and promotes the Converse All Star. This is one of the first ever player endorsements. By 1923, Chuck Taylor’s signature is added to the Converse All Stars patch. Converse and basketball in America grow up together and the Converse All Star is the go-to-shoe for basketballers, from high-school to professional. “Chucks” are to this day not just an American, but a world icon on basketball courts everywhere.

Keds


1916 – the US Rubber Co establishes Keds and calls its tennis shoes “sneakers”. By the mid 1920’s, Keds were becoming popular with sports people and athletes.

1949 PRO-Keds is established. The first shoe released is the Royal, a hi-top canvas basketball shoe.

1950’s George Mikan of the Minneapolis Lakers endorses the PRO-Keds Royals.

1953-54 Minneapolis Lakers wear PRO-Keds Royals during their NBA Championship victory.

1969 the PRO-Keds Super is launched, also known as the 69er.

1970-80 the Royal Master, aka Royal Plus is launched, with suede uppers and a padded collar.

1981 Legend of boxing, Sugar Ray Leonard, joins PRO-Keds as a spokesman.

2000’s PRO-Keds focusses on 5 classic styles – the Royal, the Royal Master, The Royal Plus, the 69er and the Royal CVO.

2016 Pro-KEDS is globally relaunched.

Dassler Brothers Shoe Company:

1923 – Cobbler Adolp Dassler begins making handmade sports shoes. In 1924, Adolp (“Adi”) goes into business with his brother, Rudolph and forms the Dassler Brothers Shoe Company. The company is based in the brothers’ hometown of Herzogenaurach, Germany. By 1927 the Dassler Brothers are producing 100 pairs of shoes per day. Specialised shoes with metal spikes in the soles are made by the Dasslers out of goat skin. These running spikes are used by sprinters and middle distance runners.

In 1928, the spikes are used for the first time at the Amsterdam Olympics.

1932 – at the Los Angeles Olympics German Arthur Jonath wins Bronze in the 100m sprint wearing Dassler Brothers’ shoes.

1936 – Jesse Owens brings Dassler Brothers Shoe Company its finest moment at the Berlin Olympics. Wearing Dassler Brothers spikes, Owens wins four Olympic gold medals in the 100m, 200m, 4 x 100m relay and broad-jump. This success lead to growth for the Dassler Brothers and by 1938, they were making 30 different types of shoes.

The Dassler Brothers had a serious falling out over politics leading up to and during World War 2. Eventually the part company and go onto to form their own companies.

1948 – Rudolph Dassler establishes Puma.

1949 – Adolp (“Adi”) registers his new company – Adidas (made up from his name AdiDassler).

The 3 stripes of the Adidas logo is recognized the world over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The early Puma logo – a cat jumping through the “D” has changed over time, but has kept its origins. I think the retro-logo could do with a comeback. What do you think?

A word about (the word) “Sneakers”:

The term “sneakers” came into use with the release of rubber soled shoes. Rubber soles, being much quieter than other shoes of the late 1800’s era, allowed the wearer to sneak around. In 1862 woman-prison inmates referred to their rubber-soled shoes as “sneaks”. Who first coined the term “sneakers” is not clear, but in 1870 the word “sneaker” was registered as a word referring to canvas shoes with rubber soles.

Fast Forward

Fast forward again to the 70’s and 80’s – fitness, jogging, running, aerobics and working out at the gym are all the rage. As are sports person player endorsements. One symbol to represent this, and much much more to follow.

So that’s of a basic history of sneakers, based on my search of online and local library resources. What about Nike? What about Reebok? British Knights, New Balance? And many more? I’m making a list for future exploration. If you have more information you can share to add or improve this history of sneakers picture, please contact me. I think we’re ready to look deeper into the history of sneakers and explore the sneaker universe together. Shall we?

Best, best, best to you

Sneakermin.

 

 

 

 

What is your BEST Brand of Sneaker?

You probably know people who have grown up in families where a brand of car is much-liked or worshipped and another brand of car is highly disliked, hated even! And we all have a favorite sports team who we follow with passion and sometimes we have other teams we (here comes the “h” word again) …hate.

What is your best brand of Sneaker? Is that even a thing?!

My Best Brands as a Kid

If you asked me growing up, what is your best brand of sneakers or what is your favorite brand of sneakers – I would have said:

  • At 6 years old – Bata! Probably the first pair I can really remember. I am told I went to bed in them.
  • At 9 years old – Adidas! My first ever pair of black and yellow Olso’s.
  • At 12 years old Puma Fastriders (My brother’s Easyriders were cooler but I couldn’t get the same could I now?!)
    Then back to Adidas.

Growing Up, Branching Out…

  • At 19 years old – I got my first Nikes, bought from the Main Place mall in Anaheim. And more Adidas in Singapore.
  • Since then, I have tried anything and everything, in the shoe world.
  • After the first Alien movie, there were Reebok – but I didn’t get any until in my 20s, well into the 1990’s
  • ASICS – nice pair of very light running shoes.
  • Reebok – great walking shoes, great soles, lasted years.

Going Budget (not Cheap … Budget!!)

Then I went “budget” – not buying cheap shoes, but buying the best specials – cool shoes at good prices.

My first ones were Hi-tec Haraka – with orange soles. These were cheap (a $50 special) and because they were cheap, they were even better. They seemed to last forever before the soles finally wore through. I still have them, the uppers are still great – so I plan to resole them – cos they deserve it, they deserve to live on.

Hi-Tec Haraka

How About Now?

More recently, I have also bought and enjoyed Wild Rhino, Oboz, Kathmandu and Keen (sandals). My Keen sandals… well that’s really another whole amazing journey, love story even. I fell out with Adidas in the 2000’s (they never knew) and that’s another story for another day too.

Keen Men's Sandal

I nearly forgot my Skechers – forgotten because I have a new pair of black Skechers with memory foam innersoles – just waiting to be walked in.

How About You?

So – is there such a thing as your best brand or your favorite brand? Are you loyal to a brand or loyal to a principle instead – such as buying great value? In my mind these days I look for best looking, best comfort at the best price. Any and all the above brands I will buy again in the future.

Thank you for joining me on my trip down memory lane. I’d love to hear about your best brands or your sneaker stories, please share 🙂

Sneakermin, call me Sneakermin for short…..

About Sneakermin

Thank you for stopping in and welcome!

I was given  my first pair of Adidas sneakers when I was 9 (black and yellow Oslo’s). Since then I have been interested in sneakers (and watches and gadgets 🙂 ). Anything cool, colorful, classy and comfortable – I’m into.

My purpose with this website is to take a journey from the cool of the past to what is cool today, making friends along the way.

Sneakermin explained – Sneakermin is a group of like-minded sneaker people, open-minded, retro-loving and ageless.

If you ever need a hand or have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to help you out or receive your help :-).

All the best,

Sneakermin
Sneakermin.com