Do we still wear Ugg boots …?

Written by Lea Dolan, CNN

As the fashionable Y2K-inspired trend continues to resurface in the wardrobe basics of 20 years ago, it was only a matter of time before the Ugg boot made its mark. his return.

Over the past year, reformed versions of the classic beige sheepskin shoes have been spotted on Hailey Bieber and Bella Hadid, as well as TikTok influencers Victoria Paris and Lauren Wolfe (who have a total of 1.6 million followers on the ‘application). In a Halloween vlog titled “Ugg Season,” Emma Chamberlain – a 20-year-old YouTube star who recently attended the Met Gala as an ambassador for Louis Vuitton – guiltyally admitted to her 11 million subscribers that she was, in fact, “wearing leggings and Uggs boots.”

“Like, I’m becoming something that I never thought I would become,” she said with a laugh. “What is happening to my identity right now?” “

Love them or hate them, Uggs boots have long been a celebrity accessory. At first, there was no occasion too formal and no meeting too low-key for the shoe to make an appearance. Their presence seemed to permeate the time, space and dress code. In 1996, Minnie Driver donned a pair of large beige shoes for the premiere of “Scream” on the red carpet, while Leonardo DiCaprio, Julia Roberts, Beyoncé and Kate Moss all ran errands in their lightly sheepskin shoes. water stained.

Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie and Jessica Alba wore Uggs in the early 2000s. Credit: Getty Images

The Uggs were so prolific that the mere sight of them now evokes powerful memories of the zeitgeist of the 2000s. Low waisted jeans, off-center fedoras and Paris Hilton seem to be written in their very fabric.

But the story of the Ugg boot begins years before the paparazzi clichés of TMZ, and far from the starry boulevards of Los Angeles, on a sandy beach in San Diego.

Origin of Ugg

Australian surfer and entrepreneur Brian Smith designed the first iteration of the Ugg boot in 1978 after moving to Southern California. Tan, soft and round toe, it was identical to the version later sported by Hollywood stars. Smith’s invention was snubbed by the mainstream shoe market at the time, but the surfing community of SoCal was quick to champion the Uggs for their functionality (the sheepskin-lined boot could be slipped on). without socks after quick drying with a towel).

After Uggs gained the hallmark of approval from the surfing subculture, Smith was able to find his way further into the sportswear industry. The warm sheepskin interior of the shoe was adopted by ski and snowboard enthusiasts, and by the 1980s the shoe’s biggest fans were high school hockey teams in the Midwest and East. the United States. The brand quickly spread across the student ecosystem. “The peer pressure was intense,” Smith recalls in a telephone interview from his home in San Diego. “If you didn’t have a pair of Uggs in high school, you just weren’t cool.”

Neil Young performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 1993 wearing a pair of Uggs donated by founder Brian Smith.

Neil Young performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 1993 wearing a pair of Uggs donated by founder Brian Smith. Credit: NBCUniversal

In the early 1990s, Smith wanted more visibility for his creation. During a flight, he spotted another passenger engrossed in the pages of People Magazine, and he decided, on the spot, to try to break the boots in Hollywood. Smith wrote to 400 fashion designers offering a free pair of Uggs to all interested celebrities. According to Smith, his offer was quickly accepted by Neil Young, Brooke Shields, Tom Cruise and Kate Hudson. But it wasn’t until 2000, five years after Smith sold the company to multi-brand shoe giant Deckers Outdoor Corporation, that things started to heat up.

The Bromley Group, a New York-based marketing agency hired by Deckers, continued Smith’s celebrity endorsement strategy and began shipping Uggs to movie sets in hopes stars could wear them between takes. . The goal, Julie Nuernberg, Bromley Group Account Manager, said at PR Week 2003, was to promote this shapeless, functional and frankly not sexy shoe as a staple fashion item, or “something. something you would wear with a mini (skirt) for shopping, ”she said some 20 years ago. (Soon after, a miniskirt and pair of Uggs would become the brand’s defining visual legacy thanks to Y2K luminaries Nicole Richie, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan).

Like everything born out of the celebrity-obsessed 2000s, Uggs’ fate depended on the brand’s ability to gain stardom, which it did almost instantly. Oprah Winfrey first spotlighted Uggs on her favorite things list in 2000, handing out 350 pairs of Uggs to her staff and further exposing the label to her millions of loyal viewers.

Sarah Jessica Parker in a pair of boots at the height of their popularity in 2005.

Sarah Jessica Parker in a pair of boots at the height of their popularity in 2005. Credit: Arnaldo Magnani / Getty

“Nike got jogging off the ground, Reebok got aerobics off, Zoom got the pandemic off and for (Uggs) it was Oprah,” Smith said. “Oprah was what took (Uggs) around the world. And that’s how he entered the billions.”

Oprah continued to champion the brand for over two decades, including a new colourway collection that premiered again on Favorite Things in 2003 and a glitter version in 2010. Even Winfrey’s most recent list has a socket for Uggs.
For the masses, Uggs has perfectly interwoven the look of the off-duty model with the SoCal style popularized by shows like “Laguna Beach” and “The OC”. Between 2002 and 2003, sales had increased by 300%. There were month-long waiting lists to buy the boots as manufacturers ran out and store supplies dried up. The shoes were sold on eBay for a mark-up of over 200%, reported New York Magazine in 2003. On the streets, things weren’t much better, with customers “fighting and crying for a pair,” a store owner told NYMag.
Kate Moss wears Uggs on a walk in West London, 2003.

Kate Moss wears Uggs on a walk in West London, 2003.
Credit: Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images Europe / Getty Images

But once supply caught up with demand and a slew of fakes began to hit the shelves, Uggs went from an ambitious accessory to a generic garment. The market had become saturated with caramel-colored boots, so much so that the glow of celebrity approval was dimmed by the ubiquity of Uggs on the streets. In 2009, the British newspaper The Independent dubbed Uggs “the Australian shoes that make you feel like you have ankles of childbearing age.”

“Even the brilliant group of Sienna Miller and Cameron Diaz can’t win them with conviction,” he continued.

As a result, the boots were relegated to private use only. While their comfort was undeniable, Uggs were no longer markers of unpretentious, laid-back luxury, but rather shamefully loose.

But, a decade later, tastes have changed again: Google searches for “Uggs” have increased 90% last month. “I was in Paris recently and just couldn’t believe how many Ugg boots I saw,” Smith said.

Kaia Gerber wore ultra mini Uggs earlier this year.

Kaia Gerber wore ultra mini Uggs earlier this year. Credit: Rachoot / MEGA / GC images

Much like the rebirth of Crocs – the foam gardening shoe that recently released sold-out collaborations with musicians Malone substation and Justin Bieber – the pandemic could be at the origin of our transgressive tastes. According to Lucila Saldana, footwear and accessories strategist for trend forecasting company WGSN, comfort was king in 2020 and 2021 – and fashion took note.

“Two-mile-wear shoes – that is, shoes that are comfortable for being at home and functional enough for running errands, have exploded as a business and design consideration during the pandemic,” he said. she declared by e-mail. It was the perfect storm for a Ugg revival: a comfortable shoe that simultaneously evokes the heady days of the early 2000s, an era that has exerted a huge influence on fashion since 2018.

Fashionable unflattering

Today, the brand has been busy joining forces with a host of hip haute couture designers, reinventing the very essence of Uggs and ushering in a bolder new demographic. In February 2019, cult bicoastal label Eckhaus Latta launched square-toed Ugg mules to the world during New York Fashion Week. The following year, Uggs set their sights on famed British fashion designer Molly Goddard and designed a three-piece shoe collection comprised of towering lime-green platform mules, fluffy wool slippers and floral-appliquéd boots.

The Feng Chen version of the Ugg boot is both opulent and orthopedic.

The Feng Chen version of the Ugg boot is both opulent and orthopedic. Credit: UGG

In October, Uggs collaborated with affordable luxury brand Telfar to create a collection that increased search interest 94% in 48 hours, according to fashion site Lyst. Earlier this month, Chinese designer Feng Chen released a buckled version of the Ugg boot.

While not everyone agrees with the brand’s quirky new styles (Smith admitted he “sometimes wonders who the company is suing”), the limited-edition products and high-fashion partnerships keep the 43-year-old brand fresh while still offering an air of exclusivity – the antidote to Uggs’ cause of death over 10 years ago.

It seems to be working: Uggs searches on Pinterest in the US this month are up 60% from January 2021, and the data also shows a 300% increase in the use of the phrase “outfits.” Ugg ‘in the UK. “2000s brand ‘Ugg’ is set for a revival in 2022,” Pinterest fashion manager Jessica Payne said in an email, citing celebrity Kaia Gerber – who often wears ultra mini Uggs with her pilates outfits – like a driving force.

Molly Goddard's collaboration with Ugg was revealed during London Fashion Week 2020.

Molly Goddard’s collaboration with Ugg was revealed during London Fashion Week 2020. Credit: Ben Broomfield @photobenphoto

Since Smith sold the brand in 1995 for $ 15 million ($ 27.7 million dollars in today’s money) revenue jumped to $ 1.5 billion, The New York Times reported. So, does the founder regret his decision to cash in on the most recognized labels in fashion, especially in view of this surprising second wind?

“No. I’m really happy,” he said. “It was like walking my daughter down the aisle to get married to a new husband. I was really proud that I had built what I had. And I knew that in order for him to grow and prosper, he had to be. ‘it falls into bigger hands than mine. “

Top image: Models Kaia Gerber, Emily Ratajkowski and Elsa Hosk are wearing reformed versions of Uggs.

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