Fleece-lined sheepskin boots called uggs have been popular since at least World War I, when Australian fighter pilots wore the comfy footwear while flying with their British counterparts in Europe and the Middle East. In the 1930s, Australian sheep shearers favored uggs, and by the 1960s Australian surfers had discovered the rough-and-tumble boots (uggs, some say, is short for “ugly”) as the perfect antidote to cold toes after a bracing bout in the waves.
All of which made it more than a bit galling to Australian ugg-makers such as Blue Mountains, Mortel’s, and Uggs-N-Rugs when, in 2003, they received a cease-and-desist warning from a U.S. manufacturer that claimed ownership of the ugg brand. Three years later, a court ruled that the U.S. firm could, indeed, do business as UGG Australia, but that Australian boot-makers could continue to call their sheepskin boots uggs, as they had been doing for decades.
The first uggs were soft-soled, formed of two pieces of sheepskin sewn together down the center of the boot. In the 1970s, Uggs-N-Rugs added a hard sole to the shoe and a molded stitched-in heel. This is the version that is most prevalent today.
Pamela Anderson upped the ugg’s profile in the United States when she took to wearing the leg-warming footwear between takes of the television show “Baywatch.” Kate Hudson and Sienna Miller are just a few of the other actresses who have made what had been a casual man’s boot into a must-have fashion accessory for women.
In no small part, UGG Australia gets the credit for the boot’s popularization among women. One of its hottest styles is a version whose Pepto-Bismol pink New Zealand shearling fur is exposed on the boot’s exterior, with soft flannel inside to keep the feet warm.
Other examples feature elaborate, “girly” embroidery on the outsides of the boots; tall, above-the-calf versions in chocolate, tomato, or black; and horizontally striped boots made of cable-knit fabric, which look a lot like socks with rubber souls.