As the 2000s-inspired fashion trend continues to resurface as wardrobe staples of 20 years ago, it was only a matter of time before Ugg boots made their divisive return.
Over the past year, revamped versions of the classic beige shearling pumps have been seen on Hailey Bieber and Bella Hadid, as well as TikTok influencers Victoria Paris and Lauren Wolfe (who have a combined following of 1.6 million on the app). Cher has become the latest A-lister to endorse the brand, when she was recently revealed as the new face of Ugg for Spring 2022.
In a 2021 Halloween vlog titled “Season of Ugg,” Emma Chamberlain, a 20-year-old YouTube star who recently attended the Met Gala as an ambassador for Louis Vuitton, admitted to her 11 million subscribers that she had, in fact, was “wearing leggings and uggs.”
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“I’m becoming something I never thought I would become,” she said with a laugh. “What’s going on with my identity right now?”
Love them or hate them, Uggs have long been something of a celebrity appendage. In the early years, no occasion was too formal, no gathering too low-key for the shoe to make its appearance. His presence seemed to permeate time, space, and the dress code. In 1996, Minnie Driver donned a pair of tall beige pumps to the red carpet premiere of “Scream,” while Leonardo DiCaprio, Julia Roberts, Beyoncé, and Kate Moss were photographed running errands in their slightly stained shearling shoes. of water.
So prolific were the Uggs that just seeing them now evokes potent memories of the 2000s zeitgeist. Low-rise jeans, off-kilter hats, and Paris Hilton seem to be inscribed on her own fabric.
But the story of the Ugg boot begins years before the TMZ paparazzi photos, and far from the star-studded boulevards of Los Angeles, on a sandy beach in San Diego.
Origin of the Ugg
Australian surfer and entrepreneur Brian Smith designed the first version of the Ugg boot in 1978 after moving to Southern California. Tanned, smooth, and with a round toe, it was identical to the version later worn by Hollywood celebrities. Smith’s invention was shunned by the traditional shoe market at the time, but the SoCal surfing community was quick to defend the Ugg boots for their functionality (the shearling-lined boot could be worn without socks after quick drying with a towel).
After Uggs amassed the cachet of approval from the surfing subculture, Smith was able to move further into the sportswear industry. Ski and snowboard enthusiasts embraced the shoe’s warm sheepskin interior, and by the 1980s, the boot’s biggest fans were high school hockey teams in the Midwestern and Eastern US. The brand soon spread throughout the student ecosystem. “The peer pressure was intense,” Smith recalls in a phone interview from his home in San Diego. “If you didn’t have a pair of Uggs in high school, you just weren’t cool.”In the early 1990s, Smith wanted more exposure for his creation. While on a flight, he saw another passenger engrossed in the pages of People magazine, and decided, right then and there, to try to break into Hollywood. Smith wrote to 400 fashion stylists offering a free pair of Uggs to any celebrity who was interested. According to Smith, his offer was soon accepted by Neil Young, Brooke Shields, Tom Cruise, and Kate Hudson. But it wasn’t until 2000, five years after Smith sold the company to multi-brand shoe giant Deckers Outdoor Corporation, that things started to heat up.
The Bromley Group, a New York marketing agency hired by Deckers, continued Smith’s celebrity endorsement strategy and began sending Ugg boots to movie sets in the hope that stars could wear them between takes. The goal, Bromley Group account supervisor Julie Nuernberg told PR Week in 2003, was to promote this shapeless, functional and downright unsexy shoe as a fashion must-have, or “something you’d wear with a mini.” (skirt) to go shopping”. she said about 20 years ago. (Shortly thereafter, a miniskirt and a pair of Uggs would become the brand’s defining visual legacy thanks to Y2K luminaries Nicole Richie, Britney Spears, and Lindsay Lohan.)
Like everything born of the fame-obsessed 2000s, the fate of Uggs hinged on the brand’s ability to gain a celebrity following, which it did almost instantly. Oprah Winfrey first featured Ugg boots on her list of favorite things in 2000, handing out 350 pairs of Ugg boots to her staff and further exposing the label to her millions of loyal viewers.