ugg Boots History

The history of the Australian sheepskin boots can be traced as far back as the beginning of the 1900’s when World War I pilots wore their fleece-line “Fug Boots”. In 1933, shearers discovered the comfortable and warm qualities of Merino sheep skin. Mortel’s Sheepskin Factory began producing a line of “ugh boots” in 1950, and it wasn’t until 1960 when the first Australian surfers decided to start wearing the cozy boots right out of the water to warm their cold feet. The style of the first boot was very basic, nothing more that two pieces of sheepskin formed in the shape of a boot. The sheepskin was joined along the center and back of the boot, and attached to the bottom was a soft sole. The design of this boot was so basic that they didn’t even utilize hard soles. In a sense, they were really only a very cozy sock!

The manufacturing company “ugg s-N-Rugs” claim to be the longest surviving Australian sheepskin footwear producer. They acted on what they saw as a big opportunity to retail the ug boots and set up their business in Western Australia in 1970. With aesthetic goals in mind, they attempted to disassociate the term ‘ugly’ with the boots by taking the seam out of the front and center of the boot. They began producing boots that were a three-piece style with a patterned braid down the back, gave it a stronger sole, and eventually added a stitched-in heel counter. This heel counter was stitched into the inner sole to prevent it from moving, and added a great deal of support to the boot. Now, the boot could maintain its shape—and no longer had the traditional “sock appearance—defeating one challenge that many manufacturers had not been able to achieve. Competitors have taken these ideas and come up with many new innovative fashionable styles.

In the 1970’s, a group of entrepreneurs started selling the boots to surfers, and with the growing trend, the boots eventually made it overseas. In the last 30 years, ug boots gradually became more abundant in the U.S., as more people became aware of the unique characteristics of sheepskin. In 1978, a man named Brian Smith, a young Australian surfer, brought a core piece of sheepskin to the United States. He set out with about two dozen pairs of what is now called ugg sheepskin boots, and pursued NYC retail stores in anticipation of making his “sheepskin to riches” story become a reality.

Three days later he was still without any takers, and almost completely out of money. Brian still had the two dozen ugg boots and was frustrated with his lack of success. Being committed to his goals and extremely persistent, Brian continued to work diligently in his efforts to convince Americans that these Australian boots had an appropriate spot in the U.S. market. Finally, Brian realized that the ugg boots would probably be most successful if he aimed his campaign at American surfers, as they were (and still are) the choice for surfers’ feet in Australia. He soon came to realize there was an existing group of surfers who had brought ugs back from Australia to share with their American surfing friends. In Brian’s first season of business, he sold only 48 pairs of boots to only 5 different buyers!

However, with the help of Californian surfers who became aware of the beauty of these sheepskin boots - the incredible warmth, ultimate comfort and cozy sheepskin, Brain’s hard work paid off. Now, the popular “ugg” or “ugg Australia” brand is sold from LA to New York to London. Other styles have also been developed beyond just boots to include shoes, slippers, clogs, and various other ‘all-season’ products. These are all made of the same high quality Australian sheepskin.

Brian Smith’s success, he registered the term “ugg” as a US trademark, and then sold it and the company to a California company “Deckers Outdoor Corporation”. Recently, Deckers has been pursuing Australian manufacturers who have been using the generic term ugg, ug, or ugh to describe their boots. The Aussies contest that they have been making their boots long before the ugg’s trademark was even registered in the U.S. Their presumption is that the term “ugg” is as generic as the term “sneaker”.

Regardless of what the correct use is, ugg Australia has done a great job in marketing their very classic cozy sheepskin boots from Australia. No matter what they’re called, there is definitely a wide variety of other sheepskin boot manufacturers to choose from that make very similar products, including Emu, Acorn, Minnetonka, Koolaburra, and Aussie Dog.

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