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.

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