Why you need to rethink your view on Ugg Boots

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Rejoice the return of the Ugg (Picture: Ugg/Ben Rayner)

Cast your mind back to 2002 and, chances are, the predominant image that will pop into your mind is the UGG boot, otherwise known as the shoe version of a hangover.

It was a boot that gloried in being ugly, that left us all walking on the ankles, went soggy the second it rained and never recovered, but was so comfortable, we forgave it all those sins and determinedly carried on wearing them anyway (sometimes with mini skirts, which made absolutely no sense).

Well, that boot is back.

Last week, Alexa Chung announced her collaboration with the brand and, with that, sealed what the fashion world has been attempting to do for a good year now: she made UGGs viable again.

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Alexa Chung art directed the photoshoot for Ugg’s rebooted 2.0 Ugg boot (Picture: Ugg/Ben Rayner)

Now, for all the naysayers out there that remember 2002 and greet this with horror, I hear you.

Rebooting a shoe once known as ‘slag wellies’ hardly feels like a crowning moment for anyone. But this is where you are going wrong.

The return of the UGG outlet is actually good news for all of us, as half of Vogue’s editorial team has already discovered. How can you argue with Vogue? Answer: you can’t.

Sure, they may have lacked in obvious style, durability and any form of water-proofing, but that’s all changed with the launch of the UGG 2.0, which actually keeps water out, and a ‘luxe’ take on the classic that has a slimmer profile and promises to keep its shape. What is this if not magic and wizardry?

And let’s not forget that cheap UGGs are so far the only shoes to date that have managed to make wearing slippers to work legitimate, which is no small thing.

That’s basically why half the western world started wearing them in the first place and then didn’t take them off for the whole of 2002-2003.

You may scoff now, with your structured footwear that doesn’t collapse in on itself within a week of use, but come January and the New Year hangover, you’ll be grateful for that soft, fluffy lining that is capable of keeping the cold out like no other.

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Besides, the return of the UGG UK is about more than just the boot itself anyway; it marks a bigger fashion movement that is going on this season: to bring back functional and wearable clothing that you might actually welcome putting on when you peel yourself out of bed in the morning.

See also the oversized everything, down-filled puffer jackets and sleeves so long they finish a good foot after your fingers do.

Casual observers could point out all these clothes can be hideously ugly too and that maybe that’s the real movement the UGG is a part of, but let’s ignore those dissenting voices and focus instead on the perks: fashion is being kind to us and giving us trends we actually want to wear, for once, and that’s something to be grateful for.

Alexa Chung’s Ugg Boots and beyond: why ugly shoes are winning

— Fashion’s new obsession with unaesthetically pleasing shoes speaks volumes about designers’ mindsets

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Balenciaga’s SS16 show featured stiletto boots.

Can Alexa Chung make Ugg boots cool again? Chung has been hired as artistic director for a new photo shoot for the label. And the brand – forever associated with the fag end of early 00s celebrity culture – is clearly hoping Chung can sprinkle the same magic pixie dust that she did for Marks & Spencer.

Uggs have been attempting to make their way out of TMZ infamy and associations with Britney in recent years with celebrity associations. Hailey Baldwin modelled in a campaign and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley was appointed as the women’s ambassador. Chung, for her part, has publicly called cheap Uggs “a classic, something along the lines of a Barbour jacket”. Yet still the stigma remains, not to mention their appearance: a soft, large and lumbering Yeti foot that’s the exact opposite of the streamlined silhouette that has come to define women’s shoes. But there’s a change afoot.

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The news that sales of trainers had overtaken that of high heels (37% of women bought trainers compared to the 33% who bought shoes with a heel) and that Birkenstock was the most searched-for shoe on Google in the summer, suggested a shift away from glamour and towards utility and practicality. Street style celebrities and members of the Frow wore classic Old Skool Vans trainers during fashion week, while on the actual catwalk a high proportion of “ugly” shoes dominated. Christopher Kane, whose theme was Make, Do and Mend, featured Crocs at his London show decorated with precious stones such as sodalite, red leopard, malachite, diaspro and zebra Jasper. While Maison Margiela featured an elevated hiking sandal featuring velcro straps and multicoloured patchwork. Additionally, both Rick Owens and Balenciaga took the boot shape and reworked it: Owens created a Muppet-like crushed boot, while a feature of the Balenciaga collection was pointed boots featuring a strong line of fabric .

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Baby Spice platforms at the Fenty x Puma show.

Rihanna’s Fenty x Puma show featured a raised trainer in baby pinks and whites, recalling Baby Spice’s moonboot platforms. While platform heels – the uncool 70s throwback associated with early Abba – were also present at the Sacai and Vivienne Westwood shows.

But why are ugly shoes making a comeback? The boundaries of what is considered tasteful or not are constantly shifting season to season with a movement towards the geeky and normcore extreme. With that, the shoe detail has become a calling card for designers to express their humour and their rejection of traditional tastefulness. As Diana Vreeland famously said: “We need a splash of bad taste … no taste is what I’m against.”

ATO sticks boot into Australia’s top ugg boots manufacturers

One of Australia’s top ugg boots manufacturers has been battling the tax office, as the local industry complains of cheeky imports and being blocked from using the word “ugg” when selling their sheepskin boots overseas.

Ugg boots have become fashion items overseas and Australian companies are estimated to do hundreds of millions in sales here and abroad.

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Several weeks ago, the Australian Taxation Office applied to wind up Ugg Australia.

There are about a dozen sheepskin footwear manufacturers in Australia, but Ugg Australia is the only one with its own tannery. “We cut, stitch and glue every pair of sheepskin boot here in Melbourne, Australia,” its website states.

Several weeks ago, the Australian Taxation Office applied to wind up Ugg Australia – estimated to be one of the top five Australian-made sheepskin footwear manufacturers – due to a debt. A Federal Court hearing is set for Tuesday, October 11.

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One of Australia’s top ugg boots manufacturers has been battling the tax office.

However, Ugg Australia’s accountants Black & Krantz said on Friday the matter had been settled with the ATO. The ATO declined to confirm that the matter had been settled.

Decades-old Ugg Australia also sells under the Roman & Ludmila (R&L) brand overseas.

Despite the Oxford English dictionary defining cheap ugg as a “kind of soft sheepskin boot”, Australian manufacturers are not able to use the word “ugg” when selling boots overseas. This is because US footwear and clothing brand Deckers trademarked the word “Ugg” after it bought UGG Holdings in 1995.

It’s a long-running debate whether the word “ugg” is a trademark or a generic term.

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Nick Xenophon loves his Uggs.

But Michael Kaper, secretary of the Australian Sheepskin Association, said a more pressing concern for remaining manufacturers was a surge in cheaper, imported sheepskin boots emblazoned with the words “ugg” or ‘Australia’, or the Australian flag.

“In the last 12 months, I’ve seen prices have gone down by up to 30 to 40 per cent, in what we call the classic products: the classic short, the tall boot and the ankle boot,” said Mr Kaper, who is also a director of an Australian manufacturer, Jumbo Ugg Boots.

“When you have a product with the word ‘Ugg outlet‘ on it, and it says ‘100 per cent sheep skin’, and it’s a classic Australian style, the average consumer will think, ‘Wow, I’m getting a really good bargain here for this Australian-made boot.’

“But what they’re actually buying is a product that’s made wholly in China, with an ‘Ugg’ stuck to the back of it.”