Coffee Runs, Quarantine and Onitsuka Tiger

words by angelyn & claudia

design by claudia


The Japanese sportswear brand has been in touch with shoes worn on and off the track. From a range of high-performance sportswear into its catalogue of reinvented classics we see today, Culture Cartel had the opportunity to try Onitsuka Tiger’s kicks: the Empirical Lo 2.0 and the beloved GSM sneaker.

Look, life under lockdown can be mundane. Quarantine has made some of us face the same routine every day and got us asking ‘What day is it again?’. With lockdown measures put in place, we are only getting out of the house for essential services and the occasional coffee run. Every opportunity to travel beyond the grocery store is an opportunity to relive life as we knew it. We thought about what we missed most: coffee. We even missed walking under hot, prickly weather. So, we put on our Onitsuka Tigers and made our way to one of our favourite places for coffee and a mid-day snack—Chye Seng Huat Hardware.

The weather was as we’d expected and you’d think the journey was dreary with our feet confined in sneakers (we’re called ‘flip flop nation’ for a good reason). To our surprise, the GSM’s were lightweight and allowed proper ventilation, both of which are qualities to look out for in a pair of walking shoes. Tennis shoes profoundly inspire the design of the GSM from the 80s—an era where ball sports thrived and sports brands suited their design plans to the needs of players.

For someone who looks for versatility in their sneakers, this beloved pair of GSM kicks is wearable for every occasion, and we can see this as a crowd’s favourite. From running errands to walking your dog, this all-white sneaker takes you there in comfort and style. Though our trip to Chye Seng Huat was short, I can see myself walking longer distances in these. What’s unique about the GSM is the holographic detail running down the upper, setting it apart from its other models. Its timeless silhouette is one that has stood the test of time. We certainly appreciate the sleek silhouette of the sneaker as it is a good break from the chunky sneakers we have seen going around lately.

Apart from being known for the classic GSM series and Mexico 66 line, the Japanese sportswear brand has been in touch with shoes worn off the track. We have witnessed the Japanese sportswear brand evolve from a range of high-performance sportswear into its catalogue of reinvented classics we see today. Their timeless aesthetic composed of its iconic stripes and silhouette continue to carry its long-running legacy on the track and now, onto the streets as well. From basketball shoes, long-distance runners and track spikes, they’ve had their foot in just about every considerable aspect to achieve versatility.

We’ve had the pleasure of going about our day in one of their lifestyle editions as well—the Empirical Lo 2.0’s in its Sakuragai colourway. Some say you can’t get the best of both worlds, but this pair calls to prove otherwise. As the name suggests, the Empirical Lo’s are designed with fabric botanically dyed in sakura which is symbolic of the Tokyo metropolitan where it blossoms. Brownie points for its base fabric made of 100% organic cotton.

We’re not sure if it’s the spongy soles or its exceptional lightness, but it’s got us feeling like we’re walking on clouds. Having spent an entire day in the Empirical Lo’s, we’ve taken them off to find no blisters or ankle straining that a fresh pair usually brings.

Designed with a combination of layered panelling throughout the upper and complemented with a thicker midsole shape and rippled outsole, you’d expect them to weigh you down and especially so with its bulkier outlook. However, they’re exceptionally lightweight and much less intimidating than popular ‘Dad sneakers’ on the market making them ideal for anyone looking to break into the realm of chunkier shoes—we say anyone because these are made in both men and women’s sizes.

Through its colourful history, the brand has modified its shoe technology and perfected various styles to support longer wear with elements like form-fitting insoles, excellent air circulation and shock absorbency. It’s obvious now how the company became a leading sportswear brand adorned by international athletes and the everyday person. Think breathable slip-on shoes for the stay-home season, avant-garde silhouettes for the experimental or nostalgic vintage prints to sport on the court—Onitsuka Tiger has a pair you’ll be keeping for a long time.