New York Daily Photo Analytics

Monday, January 05, 2009

Uggly or Not

For some time now I have been fixated on capturing the Uggly phenomenon in New York City. In fact, I have made general announcements to friends and coworkers just last week that I was waiting for an opportunity - perhaps a group of young women.
Imagine my elation as I witnessed what appeared to be a made-to-order event. On Saturday morning I noticed a couple not only both with Ugg boots, but toting Ugg branded bags. It felt like I was seeing the smoking gun after a crime - this couple obviously had just purchased a pair of boots in complementary colors - the classic beige for him and black for her. This case was His and Her Uggs and they were quite happy. In a bizarre fortuitous twist, the woman actually posed for a photo with an Ugg bag on each side of her (photo upper right). Quite pleased with the results of the photo session (lower left), the couple went off stepping proudly down Mercer Street.
The story of Uggs is a long and sordid war story. The sheepskin boot goes back millennia and their use in Australia attributed to the fact that they are the world's largest producer of wool. Popularity of sheepskin boots rose with use in World War I & II by aviators to keep their feet warm in non-pressurized cabins. They were popular since the 1960s with surfers for keeping their feet warm while out of the water.
In 1971, Shane Stedman registered the term Ugh-boot and other terms with the Australian Trade Mark Registry. In 1999, the Ugg name was purchased by Deckers Outdoor Corporation which began aggressively pursuing Australian manufacturers using variants of the ugg name. However, the terms ug, ugg, and ugh have been used generically by the Australians since the 1950s. Blue Mountain Uggs go back to 1933. In 2006, Uggs-N-Rugs (an Australian manufacturer) was successful in having ug, ugg and ugh boots removed from the Australian Trademarks Registry. Read a history here.
Ironically, ugg boots were never intended as street wear but for short term and/or indoor use (recommended to be worn sockless for maximum warmth - ugh). That stops no one of course from unintended use, much as we see Land Rovers driven in Manhattan. See my story here on shuttershades - Different Bummer.
So after half a century, why the sudden interest in spite of the fact that some consider them quite hideous? I have read reports by doctors warning of foot problems owing to their lack of support. Many reasons have been given for their boom in popularity, including the purchase of 350 pairs for $50,000 by Oprah for her staff and listing on Oprah's Favourite Things show. Adoption by celebrities like Kate Moss, Sienna Miller, Sarah Jessica Parker, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Anniston and a myriad of others has also been cited.
But for our couple, all that matters is that they procured the latest rage in fashion in the USA and wore their his-and-hers pair proudly in the streets of New York City, Uggly or not ...

More about the companies: Decker (publicly traded DECK) was founded in 1973 and is headquartered in California. Sales in 2008 were $580 million. The bulk of their sales are Ugg boots. Although still branded Ugg Australia, shoes are now manufactured in China. Copies can be found everywhere of course and can be had for a fraction of the price of the Ugg brand.
Companies like Blue Mountain, Nganjo, Jumbo Ugg and Uggs-N-Rugs do manufacture in Australia and have campaigned for consumers to patronize their brands which they claim as not only more authentic, but higher in quality and a better value.


Thérèse said...

What's funny is that over here in AZ people wear them with shorts
I wish you a happy and safe Year!

ChickenUnderwear said...

My 8 year old worn them in the wet snow last week. I assumed they were waterproof...Not so much. They are in fact sponges.

Anonymous said...

I think Uggs are a prime display of modern America's intellectual decline (stay with me here...)

One, as you mentioned in your post, they are very popular because of celebrity endorsements. How shallow is this line of thinking? Especially since Oprah put her stamp of approval on them. This county is so Oprah-blind, she could promote paper clips and there would be a rush on them.

Second, is that there is a large sector of America trying everything under their power to be conforming, non-conformists.

This is most commonly seen in "vintage" clothing, most of what some people would refer to as old or even tattered, but what the wearers see as hep, or cool. Because to the wearer it conveys an "I don't care" attitude. (Same angle the cigarette manufacturers have worked for years.)

This is in an attempt to make the statement, "I'm so cool, I can't be bothered with fashion..."...and this is seen in the Uggs mentality. "I'm so cool, and uncaring, I'll even wear my sloppy house shoes outside. And I SO don't care, I don't even care, that they're ugly!"

And funny enough, this "un-cool" trend sometimes backfires and becomes the most mainstream, "cool" thing happening; hence the Ugg.

Give it awhile, and hopefully we'll get past them. But I just wonder what the next thing will be; maybe just walking barefoot...all year 'round...because I'm so cool, I don't even NEED shoes.

Anonymous said...

This is so funny, I have to share it with my recent travelling companions to New York. There were 7 women, 4 of whom desperately wanted Uggs while the other three of us (me included) thought they were hideous and couldn't understand their desperate need to find them.

Anonymous said...

And not to be a manly-man about it, but what a tool this guy must be. You know this was her idea, and she must be treating him REALLY right for him to go along with this dorkiness. I'm the farthest thing from a testerone-driven lump, but on this one, for any girl, I would have had to give the "no-go" to save any ounce of self-respect I once had.

She's probably laughing it up with the girls at work today, with the Ugg shopping bag picture in hand..."Look how I got this loser to not only buy me the boots, but to take my picture with...a shopping bag!!!" ha!

Surely he doesn't know how he looks, or he's just given up on life in general. Especially in picture 4...with the pants TIGHTLY tucked in, and wearing a woman's coat.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:48: Right on buddy! Now bring your message to the people.

p.s. Don't go to California, its ultimately overly-cool, and they don't wear shoes.

Anonymous said...

I bought my first pair of UGGs at David Z shoes on Fifth Ave on My 18, 2004, and have since bought more UGG boots and even UGG sandals which is kind of a contradiction in terms! To me they're like macaroni and cheese--my comfort food! But I don't recall ever seeing them on men before, and I certainly wouldn't subject my own husband to the humiliation!

MovingEast said...

Could not agree more! Uggs are the most hideous abomination of fashion. I'm not pretending to know anything about fashion, but I do know when I want to stab a fork in my eye at the sight of shoes!

On another note...I love the site, sir. I am an almost daily viewer and I hope you keep up the tremendous work!

Anonymous said...

I think you've all missed the point - ugg boots are made from sheepskin (which is what an ugg boot is - a type of footwear) - and designed primarily to keep feet warm. They do that admirably. The idea of them being warn as a fashion statement came out of America (where else)! :-) And remember - all these bags with UGG all over them - they are for the American branded version of ugg boots (which are made in China so not even the real deal). Buy from Australia, buy the real thing, and wear them at home to keep your FEET WARM just like Aussies do.

Anonymous said...

The Ugg boot should never, I repeat, NEVER be worn in public. And I'm an aussie!!!!

heterogenius said...

What a douchebag that dude is. Uggs are such a ridiculously stupid trend. They're cool cause someone in US weekly wore them...WOO!!!.So unflaterning on woman especially when they tuck the jeans into them to show them off. When worn on guys its just humiliating. How would that guys Grandfather feel to know his wack tool grandson wears overpriced slippers in public. The guy should invest in some self respect.

• Eliane • said...

Aha, that is a funny trend indeed. My friends who wear those keep insisting it is sooo comfortable and soooo warm. Which is funny when this comment comment from the very same women who would spend a day in Manolo Blanick and claim they feel fine.

EddieMambo said...

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