In an industry that was previously dominated by Off-White collaborations and brand-new Yeezy silhouettes, its unexpected brands and retro styles that are now commanding the attention of A-listers and fashion insiders alike.

This is all thanks, in no small part, to tastemakers like Aimé Leon Dore’s Teddy Santis, who changed the landscape of sneakers in 2021 with the release of the ALD x New Balance 550 pack. The first of many sell-out pairs the two brands would go on to release, culminating in Santis taking the reins of the Made in USA line of sneakers.

Inspired by the archival 550 silhouette that never quite lived up to the Jordans, Nikes and Converse of the ‘80s, this disruptive partnership catapulted New Balance into the limelight and paved the way for previously underrated brands to reign supreme. 

Next came the summer of the Samba in 2022. Seemingly out of nowhere, Sambas were heralded as the must-have sneaker by the world’s most respected fashion insiders. Hailing from a heritage of football (both the game and the fans), in certain subcultures the Samba and similar styles like the Gazelle and Spezial have been a mainstay choice for footwear well before 2022’s resurgence. Not a ‘trend’, but a uniform. 

After years of hefty-soled and bold, statement designs taking the spotlight of sneaker affection, the move toward the Samba is a classic case of the pendulum swing of trends, where we move away from what is everywhere and towards something opposite, in the case of the Samba, something low top, and minimal (read more about the origins of the style here — 

Adidas quickly saw the potential to dominate the zeitgeist and the collaborations came thick and fast, with the most notable coming from one of Britain’s most exciting new generation of designers — Grace Wales Bonner. Building on a partnership established with a clothing collection, the Wales Bonner Sambas became the new must-have. Initial pairs featuring subtle crochet detailing making for a wearable option that sat just a touch above the everyday pairs and following releases saw the Samba reimagined in bold metallic materials, helping spark this emerging trend across footwear. 

Despite the swiftness of adidas’ capitalisation of the Samba seeing brands like LA’s Sporty & Rich, Palace and even luxury houses like Gucci take a stab at putting their own spin on adidas’ low top sneakers, the general release pairs were selling out just as quick as the collaborations, which has led to Sambas still riding high over the summer of 2023 thanks to their availability. However, given the widespread appeal of the simple shoe, some of those wanting to buck the trend began to look elsewhere. 

Enter a bold, bright pair of sneakers most notably seen on the feet of Uma Thurman in Kill Bill and Bruce Lee in The Game of Death. Although not famously sought after for their styling credentials, the Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 is an attention-grabbing sneaker that had TikTok in a vice-like grip. The same low profile seen to be popular with the Sambas, but delivered in a punchy yellow (or even a metallic silver if you can’t get your hand on a pair from Wales Bonner). 

The success of the Onitsuka Tiger could be chalked up to the statement style being easier to feature in ‘get ready with me’ or ‘outfit of the day’ short form video — where the details of the subtler styles can get lost easily, bold and bright comes across to an audience waiting to be influenced more effectively. 

With these three styles in mind, what comes next? Where do we look for the next style that will draw us in and cause ‘out of stock’ notifications all over? Our answer is the parent of the Onitsuka Tiger — Asics. 

Look at the past year of Asics and you’ll see a slew of collaborations and reinventions of the shoes famed for their focus on comfort. Long time collaborator Kiko Kostadinov continues to lend his hand to the Japanese born brands’ silhouettes to much acclaim. Justin Saunders’ JJJJound recently released a typically minimal take on the Gel-Kayano 14 and fellow Japanese export Needles recently revealed their take on the EX89 with signature purple stitching featured throughout the black or white colourways, and that’s just to name a few. So, collaborations and ‘it’ brand co-signs? Check. 

Collaborations can only get you so far when wanting to take the top spot on everyone’s wishlists though — that’s where the power of Asics’ general release pairs come in. Like the Samba and New Balance’s 550’s, Asics have affordable, wearable and accessible options in spades. The Gel-Kayano 14 offers on-trend metallic materials, and low-key off-duty styling, for a fraction of the price of the JJJJound option. The Gel Lyte III sits in that classic runner-inspired silhouette for those who gravitate towards a chunkier sneaker and, with the Needles collaboration bringing them back to the forefront, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the EX89 see a rise in popularity thanks to its association with the basketball scene (see the success of the 550 and ongoing reign of the Air Jordan line). Ease of access? Check. 

Last but not least, a potential Samba-level sneaker needs to have the background like that of the cool kids that came before it. The pedigree of a shoe that grabs Teddy Santis’ eye, the longevity of a style that has legions of devotees wearing their pairs to match after match, and the pub after that. Asics’ (originally named Onitsuka Co., LTD for its founder Kihachiro Onitsuka) history stretches back almost 75 years, predating the whippersnappers of Nike, and hail from a country known for its well-made designs and the tricky-to-pinpoint kind of cool that makes people spend hundreds of pounds on a specific pair of jeans. Their sneakers have been worn by Olympic athletes, tennis icons and, more recently, tastemakers and celebrity style icons alike. Historical credibility? Check. 

While we can’t predict the future, we do know a thing or two about what makes a good sneaker and if the past few years of trends are anything to go by, Asics are sitting in pole position to take on the giants that have dominated our feeds and feet.