Without Asics, there would be no Nike. Unfortunately for Asics, that statement is entirely much true. Most companies would crumble if a licensed regional distributor used its products to not only launch their own business, one that would inevitably dwarf its own. Asics, however, is not most companies. More than simply a sneaker company, the Japanese sportswear brand has a long and rich history few other brands can match. While historically limited to performance footwear worn by Olympians and marathoners, Asics has recently found itself in the midst of the fashion conversation, suddenly competing—albeit on a small scale—with the very brand it helped create.

Asics is one of the few sportswear brands founded prior to 1950. Following World War II, founder Kihachiro Onitsuka was working a normal job in Kobe, Japan when he noticed sneakers were suddenly in short supply. Seeing an opportunity, on September 1, 1949, Onitsuka founded his eponymous footwear brand, Onitsuka Company Limited. Inspired by a quote from celebrated Roman poet Juvenal, “if you pray to God, you should pray for a sound mind in a sound body,” Onitsuka’s goal was to create footwear for Japanese youth so they could maintain healthy lifestyles.

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