Stylish. Trendy. Comfortable. Warm. Versatile. Shabby Hollywood-Chic.
A Complete Fraud
If you haven’t heard of Ugg boots, I’d like to be the first to welcome you from the rock under which you have been residing for the past several years. (By the by, the Democrats took congress and the Red Sox won). They are those strange looking suede, calf-length chunky casual boots first made wildly popular by Hollywood starlets around 2000. Their unbridled popularity lead to supply shortages, bidding wars on Ebay, a virtual feeding frenzy of the hip. “Tickle Me Elmo” for rich white girls. Besides being one of most wide-spreading fashion trends ever, the Ugg phenomenon has quietly evolved into one of the most insidious corporate deceptions in history.
Ugg boots are Australian. They have been popular with swimmers and surfers from Down Under since the 1960’s. Pamela Anderson discovered them while filming an Aussie version of Baywatch and brought them back to the show’s California set. “Ugg” is an Australian term that was actually trademarked in Australia in 1971 in conjunction with the casual sheepskin boots. They were made by several small shops in Australia and had labels like this: (I had some imported from Australia at the height of their initial hysterical popularity.
When I recently contacted the Australian company that I had originally ordered the Uggs from to get a new pair, I was informed that they were no longer allowed to use the term “Ugg” or manufacture the product that they had for decades. They were currently desperately hawking other “Genuine Australian” products like Teddy Bears and blankets. I’m not an overly emotional guy, but this made me as sad as when my ex-wife ran off to San Francisco with my dog. I checked into what had happened.
Turns out, the “Ugg” boots everyone is wearing these days are neither Australian, sheepskin, or authentic. They are a Chinese manufactured product owned and distributed by an American company, and are made of pigskin. They are NOT the boots that Pam, Paris, and Kirsten discovered and turned into a fashion addiction.
Right about the time that Uggs were taking off, American shoe manufacturer Decker Outdoor secured the trademark of the term “Ugg”, opened a factory in China and began mass producing the short chunky boots under the name “Ugg Australia.” These are the boots that everyone is wearing these days and are regarded as the original item. They are not. They have a label that looks like this:
Soon after, Decker sued several Australian manufacturers and blocked them from using the term “Ugg” to market their product. Decker Outdoor literally stole the “Ugg” identity, mass produced the product cheaply, then made it illegal for the original “Uggs” to ever get their identity back. Decker in essence killed off the manufacturer of the original product that it copied and has profited immensely from. This is akin to Starbucks trademarking the term “coffee” and forcing anyone selling the brown breakfast beverage to do so under a different name.
I am a capitalist to the core. I’m all for one big business outwitting another, and putting them under, only to be outwitted by some other down the line. I enjoy watching corporate minds compete to provide the public with the most desirable product they can, and reap the rewards from their inspiration and ingenuity. But this one doesn’t pass the stink test. Everyone wearing “Uggs” today talks about how wonderful they are and have an air of “Wow, I see why these are so popular- they are amazing!!” But what they are actually wearing are mass-produced Chinese boots made out of left-over pig parts. The Wal-Martized version of a formally rare and special product. Easily the most pervasive example of corporate pulling-the-sheepskin-over-the-eyes of the public I have ever seen.
So I say lets rally the troops. Come on Pam, Uma, Keira, Oprah- lets fight the power!! Boycott these Sino-American Ugg Wannabes. When no one wants them anymore- it will open the door to the Ugg name and product being returned to its rightful owner- Australia. Eventually consumers can once again get what they think they are currently paying for. Genuine Australian “Uggs.”