The Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 Is Taking Over
If there’s one thing you can always count on in the sneakersphere, it’s that the industry will always look to the past to inform the future. Whether it’s an archival running silhouette, a heritage hooper or a pop culture icon, there’s no doubt that a ‘nostalgic’ sneaker will always have a place on the shelves and in our hearts. Revivals are massive in the sneakerspace, competing alongside the driving force of microtrends. That said, it’s time to bring your attention back to the Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66. Thanks to its entry-level price and pop-culture connection, a resurgence of the infamous silhouette is afoot. Did you see that coming?
Reign of the Microtrend
The digital era has inarguably sped up the lifecycle of the microtrend. With these trends blowing up at rapid speed, sometimes they have the strength to outgrow short-lived bursts and find a comfortable place in the mainstream. There are a number of standout silhouettes that have gone down this path over the past couple of years. Think the New Balance 2002R (backed by a major commercial bringback) and the adidas Samba, which seemed to have spawned their own renaissance via social media.
In 2022, another model has been quietly picking up the pace once again: the Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66. Right now, it’s not hard to notice an increase in Tigers – predominantly in the yellow and black striped colourway – both on the streets and on screens (on TikTok’s for you pages and Instagram moodboards, in particular).
Rising Up, Back on the Streets
Any classic sneaker has a substantial backstory, and the Mexico 66 is no exception. The origins of the Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 date back to 1966 when it was first introduced to the world as the LIMBER UP Kawa BK, designed for the 1968 Olympic Games pre-trials in Mexico. After gaining momentum due to its impressive performances at major international events, Onitsuka Tiger gained global acclaim, leading American middle-distance runner and Bill Bowerman protege Phil Knight to meet with Onitsuka founder Kihachiro Onitsuka as part of his MBA studies in athletic shoe marketing. Many know the story of how this connection led to the inception of the Nike Cortez. Of course, there’s always been a degree of historical revisionism from both brands.
While the Mexico 66 has never exactly been renowned as a ‘hype sneaker’, its pop culture connection – thanks to one colourway in particular – is one of the biggest reasons that propelled it to the front of the race. The year was 1978, and Bruce Lee would wear a yellow pair of Onitsuka Tiger Tai Chis in the movie Game of Death. Pairing them with a yellow jumpsuit, Lee’s outfit went down in history as one of the film’s most iconic looks ever. Then, in 2003, Uma Thurman would pay homage to Bruce Lee in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, solidifying the shoe’s underlying importance at the intersection of film and footwear.
Note: for the record, Bruce Lee and Uma Thurman did not wear the Mexico 66.
Today, the Tai Chi is still available to purchase, but given its price tag, it isn’t the most entry-level Tiger to opt for. That’s where the Mexico 66 comes in. It’s a comfortable, slimline, grab-and-go style priced at a neat $100. The yellow-and-black striped colourway is available in the Mexico 66 silhouette, allowing wearers to emulate that Y2K Kill Bill aesthetic while not breaking the bank, therefore being a go-to for newcomers or those looking for a new beater. And it’ll only take a few quick scours of the Onitsuka webstores to see that sizes sure aren’t sitting on shelves.
Whether in fashion, music or film (or sneakers!), it’s clear the Y2K movement is not going anywhere anytime soon. After all, no one’s safe from the warm fuzzies of a trip down memory lane. Add on the fact that many wish it was still 2003 (or rather, that they were around in 2003) – and it’s no surprise the Mexico 66 is still popular and just as loved.