Ask anyone either within the fashion community and out to list out the biggest sports brands they know, and inevitably you’ll hear ASICS Tiger. While the brand hasn’t gone the length of selling it soul to the devil for mainstream gain to the point of over-saturation, ASICS Tiger have instead opted to remain in focus with what’s true to the ethos the brand established since its inception back in 1949 by sportswear icon Kihachiro Onitsuka. The company started off in Japan, and as we all know about the the land of the rising sun, they tend to do things a bit better than the rest of us, which you can see from the quality of what the brand has been putting out through to today. While the company started out with performance innovation as their sole mission – as most major sports brand do – inevitably, and again like the rest of the market, lifestyle elements are introduced. And then there’s today’s consumer climate where aesthetic style reigns supreme with not only new designs being brought to life, but also countless reiterations of retro silhouettes – or “OG models” as they say.
1986: The Introduction of GEL
ASICS Tiger is no stranger to the lifestyle market, and their most prominent design without doubt come from their GEL shoes. While the world was celebrating Mike Tyson’s new title as the youngest ever Heavyweight Champion in boxing back in 1986, ASICS Tiger was conceptualizing a breakthrough technology that they would implement into the soles of their runners, and thus the “ASICS GEL GT-II” was born. The brand hasn’t looked back, with a myriad of adaptations and redesigns since. The technology itself, simply put, is a gel-like pad that’s inserted into the forefoot and heel of the shoe’s sole unit, offering a whole new level of comfort and support. With such success from the market, ASICS Tiger went on to develop a second GEL shoe that year dubbed the “ASICS GEL FREAKS a” which saw the new GEL cushioning technology implemented into a different silhouette.
2000s: From Performance To Lifestyle
From that point on, ASICS Tigers continued on its trajectory as one of the leading names in sports apparel and footwear, with the GEL technology under its heels keeping it going. Then the 1990s rolled around, and arguably the most iconic of the GEL series made its first appearance: the GEL-LYTE III. The shoe was revolutionary in design, from its unique split tongue down to the never-seen-before triple-density sole that quickly boosted the shoe to becoming runners’ favorite. But as things go with the passage of time, ASICS Tigers moved on to develop the superseding “ASICS GEL-LYTE Ultra” (the number four is a bad omen in Japanese culture) which surpassed the III in popularity among runners. It wasn’t until the mid 2000s when sneakerhead/lifestyle purveyors like Ronnie Fieg (who is arguably the biggest ASICS advocate in the lifestyle game), Solebox, BAIT and Invincible to name a few brought the IIIs back into the limelight with collaborative reiterations of the “OG” model that still sees the rounds on the fashion blogs today with its most recent solo release being the GEL-LYTE III MT collection in triple white and tan.
Two years after the original release of the GEL-LYTE III, ASICS Tigers brings out another show stopper with the GT-COOL XPRESS. The silhouette was yet another hit with both professional runners and the lifestyle conscious alike, and even made it on the design boards of the likes of Ronnie Fieg for a collaborative makeover, the most recent being the Ronnie Fieg x ASICS GT-COOL XPRESS “Sterling” that saw the shoe designed with soft tones in mind, and made up of premium materials that hits the mark for the the lifestyle audience. Then enters the GEL-LYTE V, and the game changed. While an honorable mention needs to be made for the GEL-LYTE IV, which still sees many coveted reiterations and collaboration with a number of respected brands, the GEL-LYTE V, which was first introduced back in 1993, remains to this day the silhouette that gets arguably the best lifestyle makeovers – and yes, everyone’s got their favorite ASICS Tigers model, but looking back at the different colorways and collaboration projects done on the GEL-LYTE Vs, it’s safe to say they stand out the most, in our opinion at least.
2016: The Legacy Continues
Lastly, we jump to 2015, where ASICS Tigers drops the GEL-QUANTUM 360, a new silhouette that brings things back to the core of the company: innovation in performance equipment. The shoe is described as being “born of GEL,” which is used to accentuate the model’s full GEL sole unit (as opposed to sections of the sole like in the previous GEL models). In keeping with the times, ASICS Tiger has also crafted a mesh-like upper material which they’ve coined FLUIDFIT, which rounds the shoe off as a perfect balance of both performance and comfort together with a slew of design options and colorways. While newer silhouettes and technology have been released from the brand since The GEL-QUANTUM 360 was unveiled, it remains the pinnacle piece for the GEL series, and while ASICS Tigers have gone a long way since its inception back in 1986, if they continue to pump out beauties like the GEL-QUANTUM 360, then they’ve got plenty more miles ahead of them. And then we land ourselves on the brand’s 30th anniversary pack, their latest offering that celebrates ASIC Tiger’s long history and aforementioned timeline of the GEL technology. Check out the well-produced clips showcasing the anniversary pack’s three drops in their respective era section throughout.