Once again, it’s happening. A shoe that I swore to myself that I would never buy and never wear is taking over the trendscape: the Onitsuka Tigers.
Just like ASICS, I have made this shoe my sworn enemy. For years — decades, at this point — I’ve held no-so-quiet disdain for this shoe. And like ASICS, this shoe is suddenly everywhere.
Let’s start from the beginning.
I’m European. Well, technically, since Brexit, I am British — and not European. But you get it. I order soda without ice, I pronounce it Ibi-tha, and all the boys I grew up with still wear super skinny jeans (though the latter is also true in my current home, Los Angeles).
And, what was once a more niche experience, I am accustomed to seeing Onitsuka Tigers everywhere I go. But what was once a shoe reserved for tourist European dads, is now the favorite shoe of fashion girls.
What are Onitsuka Tigers?
Onitsuka Tigers is a Japanese sneaker brand engineered as a sports and lifestyle shoe. It’s currently owned and operated by none other than my other least favorite shoe, ASICS. So no wonder they both leave a bitter taste in my mouth.
It’s also easy to get them confused because of the crossed stripes on the side that they both share. But once you see them, you’ll instantly recognize Onitsuka Tigers by their lightweight shape, their streamlined design, and their bold colorways.
And it’s the latter that is making them so popular with the fashion crowd. Here’s what you need to know.
Why are Onitsuka Tigers suddenly so popular?
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Every few years, a new sneaker comes off the bench. Whatever the shoe, it goes from being relegated to sports activities only, to being spotted on non-athletes like me whose only exercise is shopping or walking to get my little treats.
From 2012 to 2014, it was the Adidas Superstars. Then it was the Nike AF1s. After that, there was the scary era where everyone wore the Fila Destroyers, aka the Dino Stompers. Luckily, from there, we moved on to Sambas.
In between, there have been certain trends that have become ubiquitous. One of the most influential: the Ugly Shoe. From the Balenciaga Triple S’s during peak HypeBeast era to the evolution of the New Balance, Dad Shoes hold a certain appeal. And during the weird-girl era of fashion we find ourselves in — where a little ugly is a lot cool — Onitsuka Tigers are finally getting their chance to shine.
What celebs have worn the Onitsuka Tigers?
Onitsuka Tigers have been a staple in Europe for decades. And now they’re a new American favorite. They had a stint as an athletic shoe in the early 2000s. Uma Thurman wore them in Kill Bill. I even spotted Zac Efron wearing them in High School Musical. But they quickly fell out of fashion. Until now.
So with all these things considered, it’s no surprise that Onitsuka Tigers are the next “it” shoe. Everything’s adding up: the inexplicable appeal of the dad shoe, the rise of niche Y2K trends, and everyone looking for a new Adidas Samba.
Of course, a trend is not a trend until the hottest “it” girls have approved them. Well, from the patrons of trendy cafes in trendy neighborhoods in NYC and LA to your favorite celebs, you might have already seen them cropping up. They have been spotted on the holy trinity of fashion It Girls: Hailey, Kaia, and, of course, Bella.
Meet my new baby, the Onitsuka* tiger mexico 66. Cannot wait to wear these bad boys out this Summer!! 🐯💛⚠️🐝 #onitsukatigermexico66 #onitsukatiger #mexico66 #kaiagerber #outfitideas #pinterestaesthetic #pinterestoutfit #onitsukatigeroutfit #onisuka #adidassambaalternative #onitsuka #onitsukashoes @Onitsuka Tiger
If it weren’t for my childhood trauma of seeing European dads rock these shoes indiscriminately, I would have already gotten myself a pair. So, although I won’t be participating in this trend, you should.
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