Martial Arts Movie Stars Bruce Lee And Jim Kelly Wore Onitsuka Tiger Sneakers

But did Lee actually wear these famed shoes on screen in Game of Death?

This blogger was extremely close to buying a yellow pair of Mexico 66's. The temptation to buy arose from my having it wrongly in my head that these shoes, made by Onitsuka Tiger since the mid-1960s, were the sneakers Bruce Lee had on his nimble feet in the film Game of Death. The shoes that Lee actually did have on added a stylish grounding element to an iconic ensemble comprised of a yellow and black striped bodysuit and color coordinated nunchaku.

If you're the type of person for whom the aforementioned imagery resonates, imagine what you'd do if you saw shoes like those on the feet of some anonymous dude as he browsed the racks at the comic book shop with this kids, or roamed the aisles at Trader Joe's with his wifey, or as he did Tai Chi exercises alone in the park? 

What you'd prolly do is walk right and give the guy a fist bump or high five for followin' in the footsteps of the most badass man to ever put on a pair of yellow sneakers. Am I right?

Well, as fate would have it, I came to realize –– after re-watching and then studying Game of Death clips and film stills –– that the yellow sneakers worn by Lee in the film were actually a different and, as yet, unknown brand. There is a very strong similarity between that shoe and the Mexico 66, but the Onitsuka Tiger sneaker is a slightly better-looking shoe.

Still, looking as distinct as they do, a pair of Mexico 66's in the Tai Chi yellow and black colorway would still easily trigger the Game of Death association just the same. I mean, when was the last time you saw yellowish gold sneakers on someone's feet? Okay, other than Uma Thurman during Quentin Tarantino's Bruce Lee homage in Kill Bill 2

In fact, it seems that Lee alternated between three different pairs of sneakers while working on Game of Death. Frankly, it's unclear to me at this time if Onitsuka Tiger even produced the Mexico 66 in Tai Chi yellow and black in 1972. But two other shoes with a similar styles as the then-popular shoe from the 1966 Olympics can be seen on Lee's fee during the film. 

Around the same time, Lee also sported a beat up pair of white and blue Mexico 66's during the filming of the 1973 blockbuster Enter the Dragon––though also not on screen. Lee's co-star Jim Kelly, however, can be seen wearing the famed shoes during his "unorthodox...but effective" duel with Parsons (played by Peter Archer) in the arena of the diabolical Mr. Han.

Behind the scene stills show both Kelly and Lee wearing sneakers while chilling between takes, and while practicing choreography. And the images have caused this blogger to wonder if one of these kick-ass film icons shared a fashion tip with the other, or if they were both already on the same shoe game level? Were Lee and Kelly "sole" mates, "sole" brothers? 

The world may never know.

Click to enlarge

Side note: The marketing department at Onitsuka Tiger should probably break Mr. Paco off with several different pairs of Mexico 66's (size 13) for brainstorming on the fly a brilliant ad campaign (pictured just above) aimed at the Generation X demographic––and their kids. If I myself happened to see an Onitsuka Tiger parody ad like this, based on the 90's Gap khaki ads, in some über-trendy culture mag, I'd be headin' right off to Footlocker to buy some new shoes. Word is bond. LOL