A History of the Tabi

  • 1400s — Japanese manufacturers begin producing split-toe cotton socks, intended to be worn with thong sandals. Made with imported Chinese cotton fiber.
  • 1906 — Shôjirô Ishibashi takes over his family’s clothing business, Bridgestone Co, located in Fukuoka Prefecture, Kyushu and establishes a tabi sock factory in Kurume.
  • 1921 — Tokujiro Ishibashi, the brother of Shôjirô Ishibashi, develops a version of the sock with a rubber sole attached, a work shoe called jika tabi—the first rubber-soled shoe in japan.
  • 1935 — The shoes become popular with farmers, construction workers, carpenters, gardeners, rickshaw pullers, and other day laborers. 2 million jika tabi shoes are produced each year.
  • 1929 — The Bridgestone Corporation uses the funds from the success of the jika tabi to hire a German rubber engineer.
  • 1951 — Shigeki Tanaka wins the Boston Marathon in Onitsuka tabi sneakers
  • 1983 — Martin Margiela sells his first order of tabi shoes, made in luxurious traditional mens’ leather, to Antwerp’s Cocodrillo. Ann Demeulemeester is the first customer to take home a pair.
  • 1988 — Margiela introduces the heeled Tabi silhouette for his first womenswear show at Paris Cafe de la Gare SS‘89 show. The models wear cylindrical heeled tabi boots dripping with fresh red paint, trailing footprints down the white cotton-covered runway.
  • 1996 — Nike introduces the Air Rift to an international market. The Air Rift is a sandal-sneaker with split toe design and elastic strap, purportedly inspired by barefoot Kenyan long distance runners.