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Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 Sneakers Are Having A Comeback

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What do “Kill Bill,” the 1968 Olympics and sneaker unboxing videos have in common? A pair of Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 shoes. They’re lightweight, unisex low-top sneakers originally designed over 50 years ago for the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games. And now, much thanks to TikTok, they’re having a major comeback.

If the sneakers’ eye-catching intersecting lines feel familiar, you’re probably thinking of ASICS running shoes. In 1977, Onitsuka Tiger, a subset of the Japanese lifestyle company Onitsuka Shōkai, merged with other sporting brands to form the ASICS Corporation. But the sneakers Onitsuka had designed for Mexico were the first to showcase the future brand’s now-iconic lines, which give the shoes both visual interest and structural support. With their grippy rubber soles and flaps across the heels reading “Tiger” in a gothic font, these timeless kicks have a vintage feel — something beloved by Gen Z and many fashion creators on TikTok.

Connor Chase, a fashion content creator known for styling Goodwill gems and flea market finds, gained the internet’s attention for his video unboxing the Uma Thurman-style yellow and navy Mexico 66s.

“Sneakers are really the only thing I buy new,” Chase told HuffPost. “Everything else I typically get secondhand.”

Though Gen Z is often associated with “haul”-style videos showcasing bulk buying from cheap fast fashion retailers, they’re really into thrifting. According to online thrift and consignment store ThredUp’s 2023 resale report, by 2027 the global secondhand market is expected to reach $350 billion, in part because of this generation’s buying preferences.

When it comes to clothes, Chase is more likely to reach for a pair of someone’s old work pants than, say, a new pair of jeans from the mall. So if he’s going to buy something new, it needs to be something with a vintage feel that he can see himself wearing forever.

“The classic white Tigers with the blue and red detailing on the side, those are going to be shoes that I will continue to buy for probably as long as I wear sneakers, regardless of whether they’re ‘in’ or not,” he said. “They fit my feet well, they give my foot a shape that I like, and because of that they are just a piece that is always going to work well for me and is always going to fit in my style.”

Débora Rosa, fashion consultant at FashiionGoneRouge, also found Mexico 66s while looking for a comfortable sneaker with a nostalgic feel.

“I was searching for old school sneakers brands and styles, wanted to find a different style from Sambas, New Balance, etc,” Rosa told HuffPost. “[Mexico 66s] have a old school classic style, super clean lines and [come in] a ton of different colors that you can choose and wear to elevate an outfit.”

While the sneakers started regaining popularity in the fall of 2022, there’s been a noticeable uptick in both Google searches and TikTok videos since the start of this summer.

Luke Liu, a minimalist fashion content creator, agreed that the popularity of the sneakers is tied to their vintage look and being a different option than the reigning “cool” shoe, Adidas Sambas.

“I actually believe it is because of the rise of Adidas Sambas and Y2K fashion that the Mexico 66s have begun being popular again and that’s because they both have a similar silhouette (narrow and long),” Liu told HuffPost. “However, with the Samba craze being too overrated, some people opt for the Mexico 66s to differentiate. Not to mention there are significantly more colorways and [they] look great.”

Liu cites social media as a major driving factor in the Mexico 66’s newfound popularity, but to our surprise he and Tess Moerenhout, a fashion TikTok creator, also named another 2000s throwback: Pinterest. The site is back as a hub for fashion, they said, and the Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 is getting tons of pins.

“I could spend hours scrolling on Pinterest,” Moerenhout said. “I think it’s one of the best places to get inspiration as your feed is somewhat tailored to you, your style and what aesthetics you like.”

David Komisarchik, a stylist and creative director, agreed that the rising popularity of Onitsuka Tigers fits in the general revival of ’90s and 2000s style, which, per the 20-year rule, is now considered “vintage.”

“I think the resurgence in the Ontisuka Tigers Mexico 66 is largely due to the nostalgia and lust for the ’90s and early 2000s that fashion and mainly Gen Z is experiencing now,” Komisarchik told HuffPost. Mexico 66s “have a very 2000s-esque vibe.”

Komisarchik noted that the popularity of this slim shoe marks a departure from the chunky, oversized sneaker craze from the late 2010s.

“Overall, it seems like people are blurring the lines between formal [and] casual, and so it makes sense that more versatile sneakers are making it onto the scene,” he said. Oversized sneakers “are inherently hard to dress up or elevate beyond casual-wear; a slim shoe feels more dressy in comparison. The fact that you can get them in yellow for a casual look or black for a more sleek and actually elevated look helps!”

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