Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Mystique of the Ugg Boots

The Mystique of the Ugg Boots

By Reiko Arisugawa-Bell
The Spirit News
September 8, 2077

Ugg boots (sometimes called uggs) are a unisex style of sheepskin boot. They are typically made of twin-faced sheepskin with fleece on the inside, a tanned outer surface and a synthetic sole. The boots originated from Australia, initially as utilitarian footwear worn for warmth, and were often worn by surfers during the 1960s. In the 1970s, the boots were introduced to the surf culture of the United Kingdom and the United States. Ugg brand boots emerged as a fashion trend in the U.S. in the late 1990s and as a world-wide trend in the mid-2000s. In Australia, they are worn predominantly as slippers and often associated with "daggy" fashion sense, and "bogan" culture. Noteworthy Australian manufacturers of ugg boots include Luda Productions (which has roughly 75 percent of the market share in Australia), EMU Australia, and Uggs-N-Rugs.

The name of the boots in varieties other than Australian English and New Zealand English is complicated by a legal dispute between some manufacturers of ugg boots as to whether "ugg" is a protected trademark, or a generic term and thus ineligible for trademark protection. In Australia and New Zealand, where the term is a generic one, more than 70 registered trade marks include the term "ugg" in various logos and designs. But the fact that the term was not widely recognised outside of Australia and New Zealand before being trademarked in the United States has meant that in much of the rest of the world, it has not been considered generic for legal purposes. This has allowed the American-based Deckers Outdoor Corporation and its subsidiary, UGG Australia, to obtain trademarks on the term "ugg" in over 130 other countries. As such, even if made by Australian or New Zealand manufacturers, ugg boots cannot be sold under that name outside of Australia and New Zealand without violating these trademarks, and for this reason it is Deckers and the UGG brand whose sales dominate the world market.

The origins of the Australian ugg boot style are disputed, with both Australia and New Zealand laying claim. 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. They 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. Lifelong 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 disputed. 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 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.

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).

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 rebellio Sheepskin footwear accounts for around 10 percent of footwear production in Australia.

Traditional Australian ugg boots are made from sheepskins with fleece attached. The fleece is tanned into the leather and the boot is assembled with the fleece on the inside. Some ugg boots have a synthetic sole, commonly made from Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA). The stitching is often prominent on the outside of the boot. The natural insulative properties of sheepskin gives isothermal properties to the boots: the thick fleecy fibres on the inner part of the boots wick moisture and allow air to circulate, keeping the feet at body temperature and allowing the boots to keep feet warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather. The original design was a pull-on boot in natural (undyed) tan sheepskin, about 10 inches (25 cm) in height, with rounded, almost shapeless uppers; this is now described as the "classic" design. Produced by a number of manufacturers, they come in a variety of colours, including black, pink, blue, chestnut, and fuchsia. They are available in both pull-on and lace-up varieties and their height can range from just above the ankle to above the knee.

Some variations of ugg style boots have also been made from kangaroo fur and leather. There are also synthetic boots. Although derided as "fake" by some in the industry, their lower price made them appealing to large retail chains such as Myer.