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The Corsairs are beautiful leather shoes with a unisex appeal. The kicks feature a lace-up closure system of seven eyelets and flat laces. These give the shoe a customizable fit.
Just like with most retro runners, the arch support is not very defined. The shoes are concerned mostly with comfort and speed, which they achieve quite nicely.
The lightweight but sturdy uppers will feel stiff at first, but they will soften up beautifully after a few wears.
The Onitsuka Tiger Corsair are sporty kicks that are best matched with joggers, jeans, leggings, shorts, and slim pants.
The Onitsuka Tiger Corsair sneakers are most notable for their thick EVA midsoles that provide plenty of shock absorption. While today’s version is geared more towards fashion use, the shoes can still give some runners a bit of competition.
The Corsairs were originally named the Cortez. They were considered as influential shoes from which all modern running footwear come from. The Corsairs were initially released in 1969 in time for the Mexico Games, and during that period, the Blue Ribbon Sports Company held the distribution rights of Onitsuka Tiger shoes in the US.
Blue Ribbon Sports was headed by Phil Knight and his former coach, Bill Bowerman. As a technical advisor to Blue Ribbon Sports, Bill created a new silhouette from two Onitsuka Tiger models, with the blessing of Onitsuka Tiger. The new silhouette was initially called the Aztec, but since Adidas released a model named the Azteca Gold, the company decided to change it to the Cortez, who according to Bowerman, was the “Spaniard who beat the shit out of the Aztecs.”
One day, while an Onitsuka official paid a visit to Blue Ribbon’s warehouse, he discovered several pairs of the Cortez in the storeroom without the customary Tiger stripes, and which had been replaced with the Swoosh. Unknown to Onitsuka Tiger, while Blue Ribbon was distributing their shoes, they were also selling their own Cortez version under the label, Nike. This discovery started the rift between the two companies.
A court later decreed that both companies can sell the silhouette. Onitsuka Tiger renamed the model the Corsair while Nike kept the Cortez name.
The Corsairs have been the subject of a few collaborations. One of the most notable ones is the “Jeet Kune Do” version, which BAIT designed with Onitsuka Tiger. The shoes, which bring to mind kung-fu slip-ons, were released on what would have been Lee’s 75th birthday—November 27, 2015. The shoes featured a gold debossed Lee Kickman character on the heels and dragon prints on the black suede and navy leather uppers.
- The Corsair remains one of Onitsuka Tiger’s bestselling shoes. After a five-year absence from the market, the brand brought the silhouette back in 2013 in OG form. Most vintage details were kept except for the heels which were retooled.
- The Onitsuka Tiger Corsair contains a thick EVA midsole, a leather upper, and a grippy rubber sole.