I am going to go out on a limb here, and I know that I might get some considerable backlash from fellow members of the fashion community, but I like Uggs. There, I said it. I like Uggs and even though I only wear them to commute or on the weekends to do errands, I think they are warm, comfortable, and cute (in a practical sort of way).
And apparently, I am not the last remaining fashionista unafraid to don this fuzzy footwear in public. Tamara Mellon of Jimmy Choo revealed last week via WWD that her company plans to collaborate with the Aussie brand on a limited-edition five-piece collection available in October. To top it off, the designer said, "Ugg Australia is the only other footwear I have in my wardrobe." And wow, did she open the fashion floodgates or what? The Cut, Refinery29, StyleList, and pretty much every other important fashion blog out there practically rioted in protest. I must admit, I am skeptical of this mix. After all, stilettos and all-weather boots don't really go together, (and a lofty price tag of $595 to $795 does not seem to be helping the cause), but I will wait to pass judgment until I see the final product. Given that the Hunter and Jimmy Choo wellies flew off the shelves--yes, I liked those too--I suppose that the sales will determine who has the last laugh.
But this brings me back to the issue of when did Uggs get such a bad rep anyway? And, do they really deserve to be the entire industry's punching bag? I mean, I know fashion and practicality don't always go hand in hand, but it seems like there is nothing editors want to do more than rip on the brand.
Perhaps my partiality to these boots has to do with the fact that I have been wearing Uggs for over a decade. Long before they became a footwear phenomenon (and the brunt of every fashion-related joke), I was introduced to these fuzzy foot warmers in boarding school while playing water polo in southern California. For women, the polo season is in the winter, and we practiced in the school's only pool--outdoors. While it never gets exceptionally cold, anyone who has ever spent time getting in and out of the water while it is 40 or 50 degrees outside knows that it is hard to stay warm. One day, a girl on my team wore these slipper-like light tan boots, lined with sheepskin, to practice and was able to slip in and out of them easily to get back to the dorm. Meanwhile, everyone else threw on flip-flops and sprinted back to our rooms with freezing cold feet. Needless to say, it was no time before every single girl on the team had a pair of her own and my little sister, who is four years younger and also played water polo for my school, even inherited my pair when I left the West Coast for college out East.
Since they had practically been part of the team uniform while I was in high school, I didn't consider Uggs to be a fashion statement until a few years later when they became hugely popular and every female celebrity was photographed wearing a pair in a variety of shapes and colors. Already familiar with the brand, I embraced the trend and bought a pair in black, which I wore to death. A few years later, and now a New Yorker who needed to replace her winter-time subway-friendly commuting boots, I bought new pair in metallic gray that I still own and wear. It wasn't even until late in 2008 when I was working at a leading women's fashion magazine website that I realized the backlash against these boots was mounting when my co-workers started talking about how they loathed Uggs (at which point I kicked the pair I had worn to work that day further under my desk).
Given that Footwear News named them "Brand of the Year" in 2003 and they have even become known worldwide as their own separate category of footwear, at least according to Wikipedia, when exactly was it that the tables turn so decidedly against these boots? And, do they have any hope for redemption in the eyes of the stylish set or is their fashion fate sealed? In my opinion, Uggs aren't really all that ugly, but I have a feeling that Tamara and I are part of a dying breed.