Clumpy or comfortable, hideous or heaven-sent, few shoe styles have proved as divisive as Ugg Boots
The boots - originating from Australia - have outlasted all forecasts of their demise, and rocketed to ubiquity as one of the footwear industry's biggest success stories of the past decade.
The UGG boot was originally created for warmth and comfort. It's basically a sheepskin turned inside out and made into a boot. Most people wear them barefoot. Ugg boots are like your favourite pair of sneakers. They may be old and grungy, but you can't bear to throw them out. Some people are so fond of their boots that they wear them until they fall apart.
Pretty much everyone can identify a pair of UGG boots from a mile away with their classic silhouette and bold colors. It's probably safe to assume that you've even owned a pair of UGGs at one point or another. They are comfortable and functional, so what's not to love?
The UGG brand became all about the active and lifestyle brand. Those who wore UGG boots embraced sports, yet they knew how to relax. By the end of the 90's, UGGs were being worn by celebrities and people were truly seeing UGG as a symbol of a “casual lifestyle.”
By the mid-2000s, UGG was taking the fashion world by storm. UGG advertisements were now in the pages of Vogue magazine and celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Sarah Jessica Parker, Blake Lively and more were seen pictured wearing UGG boots in their downtime. Because of this, UGG released the first-ever color variations on their classic sheepskin boots and slippers.
In the 1970s, ugg boots became popular among competitive surfers. After movie theatres in Sydney banned ugg boots and ripped jeans, the footwear became somewhat popular in the youth market as a sign of rebellion. Sheepskin footwear accounts for around 10 percent of footwear production in Australia.
Counterfeit UGGs are a huge problem for the company. A pair of counterfeit UGG Classic boots will sell for an average of $100. In fact, the problem is so large that UGG has acted against 60,000 counterfeit websites and law enforcement has seized over 1 million UGG products globally from 2011-2014.
Apart from the blatant knockoffs there are also many legitimate ugg boot companies which provide goods of a lesser quality to ours. Ugg boots are not all made to the same stringent standards. When shopping for boots, you should be wary of the following;
- Quality ugg boots are double-faced. Look for this term in descriptions about the ugg boots. This means that an outer of layer of suede is not needed to cover blemishes in the materials.
- Look for products that use 'A' Grade sheepskin, as this is the best quality sheepskin available.
- Quality brands are most likely hand-crafted in Australia, so look for specific terms indicating that it is made in Australia such as 'Australian Made', 'Made in Australia' or 'Handcrafted in Australia'. Many ugg boot brands not made in Australia may use the term 'Australia' in their name and labelling, such as 'UGG Australia', but do not specifically state that the item is Australian made.
UGG Origin Issues
Aussies have been making and selling UGG boots since at least the 1950s and some say as early as World War I. So why didn't anyone trademark the name? Why would we? No one trademarked the name sneakers. In Australia UGG is the same thing. A generic term for your basic very ugly boot.
But there are different claims to the origins of the UGG boot style. Artisanal sheepskin boots were known in rural Australia during the 1920s, and were reportedly worn by shearers as they found them resistant to wool yolk, which would rot their ordinary boots. However, the date of commercial manufacturing began remains unclear. The boots were reportedly being manufactured in 1933 by Blue Mountains UGG Boots of New South Wales. Frank Mortel of Mortels Sheepskin Factory has stated that he began manufacturing the boots in the late 1950s.
The genesis of the original Australian sheepskin boot is tough to trace, as surfers improvised the boots to keep feet warm after catching a wave before they were ever commercially produced. Uggs as we know them landed in the US with the Aussie surfer Brian Smith, who hauled a few dozen pairs of his Ugg Australia-brand boots to California in 1978. He then started a small Australian footwear company called Ugg Holdings in California in the 1970s and trademarked the term UGG, as well as variations such as UG, UGH and so on. Those USA trademarks are what all the fuss is about.
Surfer Shane Stedman of Australia has stated in interviews that he invented the ugg boot. Perth sheepskin boot manufacturers Bruce and Bronwyn McDougall of Uggs-N-Rugs have manufactured the boots since the late 1970s.
The origin of the term "UGG" is also unclear. Stedman registered the trademark "UGH-BOOTS" in Australia in 1971, and in 1982 registered the "UGH" trademark. Frank Mortel claims that he named his company's sheepskin boots "UGG Boots" in 1958 after his wife commented that the first pair he made were "ugly." Some accounts have suggested that the term grew out of earlier variations, such as the "fug boots" worn by United Kingdom Royal Air Force pilots during World War I.
Mortels Sheepskin Factory located in the Hunter Valley NSW Australia is home to The Big UGG Boots. Built in 2015, visitors can tour Mortels purpose built facility; take a fully guided factory tour from a raised viewing platform and experience the sights and sounds of a fully operational manufacturing plant. Watch and learn about the making of Mortels UGG Boots, learn about the raw materials used and the traditional methods to manufacturing a handcrafted product. The tour finishes in store where visitors can purchase the very product they have watched being made. In addition to the tour, visitors can enjoy coffee, sweets and lunch from the Cafe & Gift Gallery and visit The Sheep's Back Museum to enjoy the history of the UGG boot and culturally significant stories through the history of sheepskin manufacturing and raising of wool throughout Australia.
The 1970s saw the emergence of advertising using the UGG and UGH terms both in trade names and as a generic term in Australia. The Macquarie Dictionary of the Australian language first included a definition for "ugg boot" as a generic term for sheepskin boots in its 1981 edition. (After Stedman complained to the editors of Macquarie, a trademark notation was added to subsequent editions indicating that "UGH" was a trade mark).
Then there is the host of legitimate companies with Australian-sounding names that have surfed the wave of UGG Australia's success. Koolaburra, Mou, Bearpaw, Australia Luxe Collective, Whooga, Aussie Dogs, Shoo Republic, Emu Australia and others market boots that appear notably similar to UGG Australia's market-leading Classic boot.
A problem started a few years ago when an American company, Decker, bought the 'UGG Australia' business & brand name. They tried to sue all the Australian companies who use 'UGG' in their names & make them stop. Fortunately it was recognised that 'UGG' is a generic term in Australia. As such Decker were unable to trademark the name in Australia. So LEGALLY, any company making & selling sheepskin boots in Australia can call them UGG Boots.
'UGG' is trademarked in the rest of the world though, so any other company selling sheepskin boots needs to call them something else. For example, Emu Boots is a Geelong based manufacturer of sheepskin boots who sell worldwide, with no mention of UGGs.
This is where the confusion comes in, as the 'UGG Australia' website makes out that any other sheepskin boot using the term 'UGG' is counterfeit, which is incorrect in Australia. In fact, UGGs made in Australia are more 'genuine' than the imported versions. In fact, Australia is one of the few places UGG Australia has encountered resistance. Although UGG Australia holds exclusive registrations for the 'UGG' name and its variations in 120 countries, Australian producers maintain that the word is a generic term referring to a sheepskin boot by any maker.
Do Sheep suffer due to the manufacture of UGG boots?
A LOT of people own UGG boots, and nowadays they’re all different sorts of colors, shapes and styles. But there have been many rumours that the making of UGG Boots is cruel to the sheep, thus causing UGG to lose customers. But is that rumor actually true?
Well, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) certainly says so. They have claimed that the merino sheep, whose wool is used to make UGG Boots, are sometimes tortured to death if they prove difficult to handle in the process of getting their wool. They also say that since the merino sheep have to grow such huge amounts of wool, it creates folds in their skin which can become cut as the sheep is sheared and left as open wounds.
But the question is, how many times does this really and truly happen and to how many sheep? The number is unknown, and knowing PETA, their information is usually exaggerated to an extent. They do this to shock people out of buying animal-made products; it’s the way they try and make lasting impressions on the public. Is this the most honest information to report to UGG Boot lovers? Not necessarily.
Here are the straight facts: Merino sheep are not killed for the boots, they are only sheared, and it is a known fact that sheep are more comfortable without their heavy wool coats. Sheepskin refers to a sheep’s wool, not their actual skin. And the outside and bottom of the boots are synthetic. So even though there is a chance a sheep could be harmed in the process of obtaining its wool, but it is also just that: a small chance. Therefore, its completely up to you to decide whether you will discard your UGG Boots for the possibility of animal cruelty, or stick with the trend and continue to wear your winter woolly boots.