NEW YORK — Take that, trend-watchers: Ugg Australia’s now-classic boots in their comfy, cozy glory are still going strong after 35 years, having just celebrated their anniversary this month at all the company-owned stores.
The sort-of-clunky sheepskin boots have been declared “in” and they’ve been called “out” – many times over. They’ve been knocked off even more. But their loyal fans keep buying them.
“Have you ever tried one on? If you did, you’d know,” says Tacey Powers, national merchandise manager for Nordstrom. “They are part of the everyday wardrobe. You own a sneaker, you own a flip-flop, you own an Ugg.”
The original boot style is still the most popular, but Ugg has branched out to include more fashion-y silhouettes and loungewear. Home products such as blankets and decorative pillows will be offered this holiday season. Almost every item is touched, even if it’s hidden at the base of the heel, by the signature sheepskin lining.
“You have to be comfortable in Ugg. You have to feel good. Our tag line is, ‘Feels like nothing else.’ We want them to be the go-to pair in your closet for everything,” says Ugg Australia President Connie Rishwain. “We don’t want to be the pretty pair you never wear.”
The peak of Ugg’s pop-culture trendiness was in the early 2000s, when Hollywood starlets made them part of their uniform with short denim miniskirts. Never mind that they were cruising the sunny beaches of Malibu, Calif.
Now it’s evolved into a “Goldie-Hawn-in-Aspen look,” says Adam Glassman, creative director at O, The Oprah Magazine, and that’s how you should wear them: with leggings and a long sweater, or jeans and a fur-trimmed parka. Or like you just don’t care.
“Ignore the rest of your outfit. It’s nearly impossible to build an outfit around them,” he says.
However, don’t wear them with socks. Not because they’ll look bad, but you’ll be missing out on the sheepskin sensation that makes them special.
The beach bums actually had a similar idea to Ugg Australia founder Brian Smith, who brought these boots from Down Under to California in the 1970s. They were particularly popular with male surfers.
But Deckers Outdoor Corp. bought Ugg in 1995 and saw its potential with young women. “We inherited its inventory and its customers,” says Rishwain, “but what blew my mind was the sell-through. We were pretty much a fourth-quarter brand, but it pretty much sold out year-round.”
Powers says part of Ugg’s staying power comes from consumers who replace worn-out products with new ones. Since the line isn’t dictated by “trends,” shoppers come back for the same thing over and over again. She compares it to a favorite running shoe.
Also, notes Powers, people always refer to the brand name. The products are pricey, she allows, but she has no complaint about quality or cut corners. (Nordstrom.com lists a pair of women’s classic short boots at $154.95.)