Culture Column: Ugg boots are not ugly anymore

October 29, 2022

Do you ever see something that ignites a snapshot memory in you, and suddenly, for days, all you can think about is that specific picture that only exists in your head? The way my brain works is that I might not always remember names, but I can rattle off either the first outfit I saw a person in, or their most memorable ones. 

With people I am closer with, and have seen their closets extensively, I can pretty much, if asked, “What should I wear tonight?” suggest an outfit down to matching jewelry and hair. It’s a natural instinct that I have put to good use with the field that I am in. 

The other day, while making my frigid walk to class, not really thinking about other people’s fall fashion, I was dumbfounded with an outfit from my third oldest sister’s closet when we were younger. My sister Lindy has always been hilarious in every way, and extremely up to date with the new fashions. Being considered a younger millennial, her fashions in the 2000s into the early teens were incredible. The specific one I remembered was my sister wearing some sort of blue tracksuit paired with tall Ugg boots on and her comically large Coach bag. What a vision that is sure to brighten up any day.

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I giggled at the remembrance of that very of-its-time outfit, but I also laughed even harder at the fact that Ugg boots are still holding on tight in fall fashions over ten years later, and are now less of a trendy item and more of a Fall/Winter must have. 

Ugg boots went out for a while in mainstream fashion, only making appearances in sub groups like southern white women in the fall, and dancers on their way to practice to name a few. In the last couple of years, with the rise of remincent fashions from the past two decades, Uggs made a hardcore comeback, not only with their classic styles, but also with their new looks and aesthetics for everyone, not just Nichole Richie lookalikes. 

Ugg boots are actually not only the name of the company producing them, they are really the style of boot. Known as the “Ugg” or “Ugh” boot, they were made from sheepskin and fleece; they originated in Australia in the 1930s. These boots only really got popular there around thirty years later in the 1960s amongst mens surfing fashions, and eventually made its way over to America in the 1970s targeting the same market. Although the name of the famous surfer dude boot was always the same, in 1985 it was trademarked and these boots were sold as “UGG” brand boots all over the world. 

For a long time, these boots were widely perceived as lazy and ugly boots to most. Many speculated that the name was associated. As they became more acceptable in the 1990s in womens fashion, it was rumored that only models could wear such a boot, as they are so pretty that it doesn’t matter. Ugg boots remained pretty underground for a while.

In the early 2000s as Hollister and Abercrombie and Fitch, beach babe prep fashion came sweeping through America, making its way into the malls of the Midwest, Ugg boots captured the attention of everyone. 

I remember being just a little boy and thinking “Those are terribly ugly.” I was a chubby kid, therefore I did not get to participate in the whole beach kid aesthetic that swept my third grade class. While surrounded by private school kids whose mothers put them in outfits that consisted of shark tooth necklaces and cargo shorts, I was wearing khaki pants and newsboy caps, looking like an old man, and trying to remain “sensible.” 

Because I did not fit in with the other kids and their cool The Children’s Place brand clothes, I grew quite a disdain for that style, and developed a snobbish look on fashion, focusing a deep hatred for one hot item that year: Ugg boots. 

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I would directly laugh at my sister Lindy when she would get ready in the morning and slip on her Uggs and adjust her tight Under Armour headband. At school, I would ask girls as they passed me on the playground, “What’s with the boots?” I sat in a way that I considered to be elegant, probably holding a piece of mulch between my fingers as if I was holding a cigarette like the women in the movies. I was relentless, teasing people terribly for a boot that I considered to have the same curb appeal as the name did, ugly. 

I remember hitting my peak hater moment when my mom brought my then 3-year-old sister home from Dillards wearing a pair of light pink Uggs. Oh, the scandal that arose in me at that moment. I was embarrassed in a way, as I had spent all this time demonizing the look, but here my sisters are out living their best Ugg boot fantasy. 

After that, my hatred simmered and I just deemed them as ugly, writing them off as something I would never wear because I thought I had too much self respect. I got older, and the boot only became a fall time footwear, so I really only had to see them on girls that just weren’t with the times, which I can ignore and not pay attention to, until about a year ago when I started seeing them everywhere again. 

This new style is different though, being made of not only the classic brown sheep hide, but also in waterproof plastics produced in tons of neon colors and stamped repetitively with the new and improved ‘UGG” logo. This new era of crazy and out-of-the-norm Ugg designs and adaptations has made the boots not only appealing to the nostalgia crowd, but also a whole new area of consumers. 

Still not too impressed by the chunky footwear, I abstained from buying a pair and watched them from a distance, but began to admire some of the styles. With the dying craze of the traditional Ugg and more hype on the new designs, I was beginning to have an eye for the more classic style. Of course, I was never going to speak on it, out of embarrassment for my prior self making such a strong stance on the shoes. 

One day while helping a good friend clean out her closet, she held up a pair of classic black Uggs and said “want them?” I paused, thinking about what my next choice should be, really picking my brain on morals and mistakes, and without letting my brain make a decision, my heart did. Sticking out my arms to receive them, I felt the instant giggly feeling when you finally give in to something bad. 

As I slipped my foot into the boot, I felt that childhood jealousy and hatred disappear. I felt immediately at peace with a choice of footwear that I never understood. I wiggled my foot around in the shoe, feeling the soft lining and warmth, and instantly recognized that I do now understand the want for such a simple pleasure. I have now almost worn those boots to death, and I am certain that I will buy another pair, as I accept that they really are a fall and winter necessity. 

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