At their store on Alte Schönhauserstrasse in Berlin one recent Friday, Japanese footwear company Onitsuka Tiger held a Japan-themed mini festival to salute the arrival of the OK Basketball MT and the OK Basketball Lo: two new shoes inspired by the groundbreaking design that ignited the Onitsuka Tiger brand almost 70 years ago.
The first shoe developed by Onitsuka Tiger was born from a prophecy that basketball was about to go mainstream in post-war Japan. Founder Kihachiro Onitsuka was determined to perfect a sole on which athletes could stop, twist, and bounce, driven by the conviction that sport was the best route to recover self-esteem and enthusiasm among the country’s youth. Over a lunch of cold octopus salad a thunderbolt hit the then 32-year-old designer: the shoe’s sole should be imprinted with circular air pockets inspired by the suckers on a cephalopod limb. The shoe was a huge success. By 1965, it was available in 500 sports shops in Japan, driving the company’s work with marathon runners from Asia, North America, and Africa, and becoming the main vehicle for the broad diversification and growth of the ASICS brand.
The OK Basketball MT and OK Basketball Lo are modelled on the original 1950 shoe
design: a casual, vintage reinterpretation that casts an eye back beyond the iconic Mexico ’66 line – named for the first appearance of the ASICS stripes in trials for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Both shoes feature a simple, stylish high or low textured upper, original stitching patterns, iconic metal eyelets, rubber patches and a timeless basketball silhouette. The tongue displays a heritage tiger logo also from the 1950s: a symbol of the product’s ethos fusing modern fit and feel with Japanese history.
For the shoes’ preview ahead of their January 15 release in Germany, Onitsuka Tiger held an event at their store in Berlin’s central Mitte district, with Japanese food trucks and beer. Music was provided by production duo Christian Rich – Lagos-born twins who have collaborated with Childish Gambino, Earl Sweatshirt, Jaden Smith, and the late Mac Miller – and the afro-futurist, garage and electric soul artist Alxndr London. Film and photographs from the evening, as well as glimpses of the new shoes, can be seen in the gallery below: