An Ode To UGGs: The “Ugly” Shoe Everyone Loves To Hate

Photo: Wenn.
I was in the sixth grade when I got my first pair of UGG boots. I went with my mom, who was 43-years-old at the time, and also purchasing her first pair. Hers were sand and tall, while mine were chestnut and short. And for the next five Chicago winters, we wore them almost every day — and had the ice melt stains to prove it. I wore my UGGs to school, to cheerleading practice, and, as haunting Facebook photos show, on my eighth-grade class trip to Washington, D.C. I wasn’t alone. Almost every girl on the trip wore them, most often paired with yoga pants and the same tie-dye sweatshirt we all bought at the airport. As most girls who were teens in 2008 will tell you, UGGs were the epitome of style. 
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In the early 2000s, UGGs were ubiquitous in the spotlight, too. Paris Hilton wore them, as did her Simple Life co-star Nicole Richie. So did stars like Beyoncé and Britney Spears. Models weren’t immune either, with Kate Moss famously being photographed wearing an extra dirty pair in 2003. To this day, I think of Sienna Miller wearing folded-over UGG boots with low-rise jeans, a white T-shirt, and a cropped cardigan — and a black Motorola RAZR! — in 2005.
Photo: Wenn.
Photo: J.Tregidgo/WireImage.
My interest in the boot waned when I entered high school. While there, I started reading fashion magazines religiously, most of which were calling them “ugly,” and began experimenting with clothes that weren’t also on everyone else. I lay my UGGs to rest. The celebrity sightings tapered off over the years as well. Sure, Shia LaBeouf wore a Pennsylvania Senior Games T-shirt with joggers and UGGs in 2014; Pharrell Williams donned UGGs on the red carpet that same year; and Diana Ross wore UGGs and a sweatsuit (how 2020 of her) in 2017, but, otherwise, they fell off of my radar as the footwear of choice. 
That is, until 2020, when the prospect of quarantining in my Brooklyn apartment for an undetermined amount of time led me to reconsider my ban on what people in fashion view as a divisive shoe. 
Two weeks into my solo lockdown in March, I caved and ordered a pair of UGG’s Classic Mini IIs in black. I wasn’t shopping for anything else, but something about a fresh, comfortable pair of UGG boots prompted me. When the box arrived, I put them straight on, and just like that, I was 11 years old again, walking out of Nordstrom with my chestnut UGGs already on my feet, the shoes I walked into the store wearing tucked away in a shopping bag. In addition to my trusty pair of New Balance 990v5s, which I ran in before anyone was up, they were the only shoes I wore until summer hit. (Yes, I’m aware that 990s aren’t designed for running, and yes, I still wear them for that purpose.) Even then, with my AC blaring, I sometimes still put my UGGs on. 
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Maybe it’s the memory of them that’s been ingrained in my mind from years of daily wear, or perhaps the comforting feeling of wearing what feel like slippers all day (even when working), but something about UGGs keeps them close to my heart. To find out if others, too, feel the same continued kinship to their UGG boots as I do, I posed the question on Instagram. “My high school boyfriend bought me my first and only pair in ‘09. Somehow they are still alive in my closet,” said Kathryn Zahorak from Los Angeles. “Someone got me a pair of UGG slippers and they changed my life,” wrote Sam Ehrlich from New York. Karsen Schafer-Jünger, also from New York, said that she still remembers when, as a ‘00s kid, she “was surprised to find a pair on Christmas morning” because her family was struggling with money. “They were chocolate brown classics and it was a BIG deal,” she told me. She, too, bought a new pair of UGGs recently: red Mini IIs just like mine. And those were just a few of the highlights. (Naturally, my childhood friends had to remind me of the D.C. photos, as if the memory of them wasn’t still crystal clear in my head.) 
Rising interest in UGGs isn’t exclusive to my Instagram bubble. For the quarter ending on September 30, Deckers, UGG’s parent company, reported a 2.5% increase in brand net sales for UGG, with $415.1 million compared to $404.9 million for the same period in 2019. On fashion search engine Lyst, UGG's slippers and boots are two of the top-searched products for the Californian brand of 2020, with each garnering 201,000 and 90,500 average monthly searches, respectively. Moreover, Lyst recently reported that UGG slippers were saved to individual wish lists more than 10,000 times in the days leading up to Black Friday.
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Photo: Jared Siskin/GC Images.
Photo: Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images.
In September, model Emily Ratajkowski was photographed in New York City wearing a leather blazer with a lime green hoodie (also by UGG), bike shorts, and chestnut-colored Classic Mini IIs. A month later, fellow model Irina Shayk wore a hot pink pair of the brand’s Ultra Mini boots, which she paired with one of 2020’s biggest trends: a tie-dye loungewear set. The next day, Shayk, again, stepped out in her UGGs, this time in a black sports-bra-and-leggings set, a teddy jacket from UGG, and tiny sunglasses. The looks caught headlines. “Irina Shayk Joined the Growing List of Celebs Who Love These New UGG Boots” was splayed across Who What Wear’s homepage, while Grazia’s coverage was titled, “Irina Shayk Is Single-Handedly Bringing Back The UGG Boot.” 
Even before the pandemic made comfort wear the year’s biggest fashion trend, the brand was en route for a “comeback” (some would argue that they never went anywhere). In the last four years alone, UGG has collaborated with some of this decade’s most prominent and innovative names. For fall ‘18, the brand joined forces with Japanese luxury brand Sacai. A year later, bicoastal indie brand Eckhaus Latta and New York streetwear label Heron Preston both announced collaborations with UGG. (All three collaborations sold out, as have the pieces resulting from most of their other partnerships.) Jeremy Scott, Philip Lim, Y/Project, Bape, and Kith have all, too, joined forces with the brand in the past. 
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Photo: Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images.
Photo: Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images.
This June, three more brands — Telfar, Molly Goddard, and Feng Chen Wang — joined UGG’s long list of collaborators. “I find UGG really sexy,” said designer Telfar Clemens — who first deconstructed the classic UGG boot for the brand’s fall ‘11 show — said in a press release. “I’ve always been obsessed with a certain kind of ubiquity and when something really unique ends up on everybody.” Unique, sure, but the design is simple, and, for the most part, unchanging. UGGs are shearling boots and slippers, designed to be worn post-surf, and adapted for a lot more. That’s it. So why did they become a worldwide phenomenon — one with a handle on everyone, from millionaire celebrities to teenage girls? Perhaps the answer is uncomplicated as timing. 
Like Clemens said, there’s something appealing about an item that everyone knows. Maybe during a year when nothing is familiar, when wearing heels is a distant memory, they were bound to return full force. Ugly or not, I, for one, am all too willing to welcome them with open arms. And pair them with a shearling UGG x Telfar shopping bag while I’m at it.

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