Uggs were invented in Australia and New Zealand. They are made of sheepskin — a plentiful resource in those countries — with a tanned hide on the outside and fleece on the inside. Who invented the ugg? The origins are unclear. It’s known that some form of sheepskin boot was worn in Australia as early as the 1920’s. They were worn by Australian pilots in WWI to ward off frostbite. One possible origin for the name is these fellows, who called the shoes “flying uggs” because they found them ugly. If only they knew.
Frank Mortel says he came up with the ugg boot in the 1950’s, and they are so named because his wife thought that they were ugly. (Take that, Aussie pilots!) Surfer Shane Stedman says that he invented the ugg boot, though he trademarked them as the “ugh”. As in “Ugh! These boots sure are swell.”
The surfing connection was a bit of a surprise for me. I mean, if you look at the boots, do you think of surfers? It looks like something worn by dog sled racers… or maybe fashionable cave persons. The benefits are obvious when you think about it, though. Uggs keep your feet toasty after they’ve been in some frigid waters. They’re easier to slip on and off than other comparable boots. Also the boots probably keep the sand out. i imagine the fleece does a good job of wicking moisture, but that would require more shepherding knowledge than I currently possess.
It’s also how they broke into the US market. Stedman sold the rights to his “ughs” to a fellow surfer, and they became a hit with that community stateside. Some time later, a large American apparel company would buy that and organize UGG footwear. Though originally a unisex footwear, the powers that be decided there was only one real market for this style: the ladies. Any living WWI Australian pilots were probably shaking their heads at this point.
UGGs hit a peak in the mid-2000’s. Sales crashed in 2011, though, after they hit a backlash. Over-priced, over-saturated, higher prices of raw materials, that familiar song and dance. Depending on what you’ve been reading, UGGs are back… though it seems like they’ve been saying that every year this decade, though.
Which circles back to Mortel’s and Australian pilots’ supposed naming convention. It’s not that hard to google “ugg” and find it paired in articles that also deride them as “ugly”. “Ugg Boots mounting a comeback as ugly fashion continues to dominate,” Business Insider declared earlier this year. (Wait… my 2019 fashion sense is ugly? And… nobody told me?)
Personally, I think they look very cute and not that ugly at all. (Says the guy who previously wrote an Open Thread on Crocs.) They look fun, relaxed, and unpretentious. However, they also don’t seem to provide any kind of arch support, so walking around in uggs for an extended amount of time probably is not recommended. Looking at you, Jennifer Aniston. You’re a long way from hopping around on a couch outdoors near a fountain. I know, Jennifer: no one told you life was gonna be this way.
As an aside, we also got our niece some baby uggs, making her the most fabulous baby around.