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We've looked at some of the game-changing sneakers that have emerged from the USA and from Germany – but now it's time to turn our focus to a real beast from the East, the ASICS Gel.
Like all the best company names, ASICS is an acronymn – coined after the Onitsuka Tiger sneaker company merged with two other Japanese businesses, GTO and Jelenk in 1977. The newly created shoemakers named themselves after the old Onitsuka company motto: 'Anima Sana in Corpore Sano' – or, 'a sound mind in a sound body' – a maxim attributed to the Roman poet Juvenal.
In contrast to the sleek, subtle Onitsuka Tiger designs, ASICS became known for bold, brash styles and flamboyant colourways in the 80s and 90s. The first Gel-Lyte kick – incorporating the brand's new 'Gel' cushioning system – launched in 1987 and was followed two years later by Gel-Lyte II. Sneakerheads really began to take notice with the introduction of the Gel-Lyte III in 1990, an innovative variant with an unusual split tongue design (the idea was to prevent the tongue slipping down on one side of the foot when you walked or ran).
Twenty-five years on, the Gel-Lyte III remains the most celebrated ASICS kick, but its successor, 1991's Gel-Saga, has become a similarly collectible trainer icon over the years. Pictured above, the Gel-Saga had a modified sole, and a slightly subtler, lightweight frame compared to its big brother.
While many other popular iterations of the ASICS Gel template have dropped over the years – including the Gel-Lyte V (the number 4, traditionally considered unlucky in Japan, was skipped) and the ultra-padded Gel-Kayano – the Gel-Lyte III and Gel-Saga remain the brand's most distinctive and beloved shoes. Worn simply with grey or black joggers and an oversized T-shirt, this groundbreaking 90s trainer retains its power as a style statement today.
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