Is there anything more to say about Ugg boots, the heinous shearling footwear-the winter equivalent of Birkenstocks-that women are wearing all over Manhattan, even in the formerly delicate-ankled quarter of Nolita?
How about: Stop wearing them? How about: Be glad that the boots are back-ordered from the manufacturer until the spring; be glad that they’re going for three times their $150 price on eBay, impossible to find, etc. That’s good . It will give you time to stop and think before you buy, you big ol’ fashion sheep.
Ugg boots originate in Australia (where else?), but like many other “but they’re sooo comfortable” trends of the past year-velour track suits, etc.-the blame for their popularity may be pinned squarely on Southern California. Embraced 25 years ago by shaggy, tolerant surfers, Uggs caught on more recently with celebrities like Jessica Simpson and Pamela Anderson. Their sleek Barbie beauty is supposedly thrown into stark relief by the dowdy boots-which simply make the rest of us look like militant lesbian activists.
“I despise them,” said Matt Heien, a New York publicist who grew up in California, of Uggs. “I am quite bummed out that they are making such a comeback.”
Uggs are, in a word, awful. They make thin women look fat, sexy women look frumpy, smart women look dumb. New York ladies have always prided themselves on looking polished, pulled together, “sharp”-armored for anything-and these are just the opposite: dissolute, sloppy, yielding.
More damningly, while they might indeed be ” sooo comfortable,” as universally acknowledged, they lack one essential quality that ugly boots have always had: practicality. News flash: Uggs are not waterproof! Yes, you can buy an $8 protective spray-but we all know how well those work. One false move in the city slush and you basically have a pair of bacteria-bearing bedroom slippers on your feet. It’s just not respectful to your fellow citizens, not to mention yourself.
The city wasn’t always so welcoming to Uggs. Once we had backbone. On the company’s official Web site, you’ll find the story of how the product flopped in Manhattan in the hard-headed disco days of 1978. (The “reception was not a friendly one.”) It must feel like karmic payback for the Aussies when their soft, shapeless boot product appeared in a Bill Cunningham photo spread in the New York Times Sunday Styles section on Dec. 7.
Stefani Greenfield, the co-owner of the Scoop boutique chain, was on the forefront of the current wave of Uggs, buying her first pair over two years ago on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.
“Every one of my Scoop people were like, ‘What are those ?’” she said. “Nobody got it. Everyone was like, ‘Do you think you’re on the ski slopes? Do you think you’re at Aspen?’ Then, all of a sudden, it became this thing .”
If you think it’s bad in New York, come West, where the unpleasant spectacle of women stomping around in fuzzy hausfrau footwear is supplemented by a basic illogic: It’s not even cold.
And they’re multiplying like Tribbles.
At the Hollywood Wilshire YMCA: 15 pairs of Ugg boots lined up outside a Saturday 10 a.m. yoga class.
Two days after Christmas on the third floor of the Beverly Hills Barneys: European women in Uggs were chattering in foreign languages. Downstairs, the MTV personality Daisy Fuentes was poring over the jewelry counter, wearing a suede jacket, Nordic sweater and faded blue jeans tucked into big, black Uggs.
“I got them a while ago, in Aspen,” she said. “I love them. My favorite way is to wear them at home in Malibu, with pajamas. I was hosting an MTV thing in Texas and wearing them, and people were like, ‘Are you waiting for a snowstorm?’ I was like, ‘No, you don’t get it-they’re cool and warm at the same time!’”
A few miles east, the West Hollywood Nordstrom, the boots’ major U.S. distributor, is solidly sold out of Uggs. The store was pushing a look-alike brand called Qwaruba. Women crowded around, fondling them. A male Nordstrom shopper was asked what he thought of the style.
“I think, ‘Why aren’t you in a ski lodge with your feet up-and maybe one leg broken?’” he said.
Indeed, men’s refreshing hatred of Uggs crosses entire time zones and generations. They remind Lance Wills, 30, an artist who lives in Hollywood, of a scene in Dumb and Dumber : “When Jim Carrey gets totally overdone with the Sasquatch boots and the ridiculous, Taos-looking hybrid snowsuit,” he said. “People laugh at that on the screen, but then just slip ‘em right on and think that they’re hot and fashionable!”
“Keep ‘em behind locked doors,” advised Mr. Wills. “It’s kind of like wearing your most comfortable, ugliest pair of slippers that your dog has used as a chew toy for years.”
Naomi Glauberman, a fiftysomething writer who lives in Venice, has been coveting Ugg boots for her daily bike ride to yoga, but her 18-year-old son, Sam Jacoby, forbade the purchase.
“Have you seen those little skirts with the boots?” he asked. “Oh God, that just makes me sick.”
A 29-year-old entrepreneur who didn’t want his name used-let’s call him “Horace”-called from New York to weigh in.
He said he first became aware of Uggs about three years ago, in L.A., when his brother’s girlfriend, a stylist from Vermont, wore them with a skirt.
“She was of smaller stature, petite, and it was cute,” Horace said. “She was always a bit edgy, and somehow made it work. It’s like, little Asian women can get away with that stuff, but normal-sized white women can’t.”
Fast-forward to Hanukkah 2003. Horace’s own 5-foot-7, blond, Caucasian, big-footed girlfriend received a package in the mail.
“She’s ecstatic,” he said. “I was like, ‘What could possibly be in that box that makes her so excited?’ And she’s unwrapping it-and then she holds up what I believe to be one of the ugliest pieces of footwear I had ever seen. Because it was huge . It wasn’t little or cute; it was big and furry.”
The girlfriend pulled on the boots and began “shuffling along like a Snuffleupagus,” as Horace put it, up and down the corridor of her Gramercy Park apartment. “‘My God,’ I thought,” he said. “‘Maybe I never noticed it before! Maybe she’s not as graceful as I imagined her in normal shoes! Maybe she slouches!’
“She no longer walked in beauty,” he concluded sadly.
“My husband calls them the depression boot,” said Ms. Greenfield. “He’s used to seeing me in strappy Manolos. He goes, ‘Usually, when you walk, you’re wearing high heels, you’re standing proud, tall. You go from strutting … to schlepping along in these boots!’ He’s like, ‘If they make you happy, they make me happy’-but no, he doesn’t find them sexy. At all.”
There’s a word that springs to mind to describe men who tolerate or, God forbid, praise Uggs: whipped .
“I love them,” crooned Matt Goss, a balding British pop star who was accompanying Ms. Fuentes at the Barneys jewelry counter. “They’re too legit to quit! Nothing’s more sexy than a woman who’s comfortable.”
“I’m thinking of getting him a pair,” Ms. Fuentes said, nudging him affectionately.
At a Boxing Day party in Silverlake, Rebecca Coleman, 27, who works in advertising, was rhapsodizing about her Ugg look-alikes, which she learned about from an MTV stylist. She said she wanted to buy her husband Bart a pair of Uggs, but she couldn’t find any in his size 14.
“I went to Boston last month, and I have never been so happy in a cold place ever,” she said. “And I wasn’t even wearing socks with them! It’s not just fashion. It’s super- comfortable and really warm.”
Does her husband like the way she looked in them?
“He doesn’t care. He was like, ‘Oh, cute whatever.’”
Some might argue that female attachment to Uggs represents a feminist stance against the patriarchal pressure to doll ourselves up.
“But the funny thing is that this feminist stance is-a slouch !” Horace said. “It’s not ‘Stand tall on your Nikes and Reeboks and propel yourself forth,’ like the goddess mentality of ‘Go do sports.’ It doesn’t even support the arch. They’re not structurally sound. You know, we’ve come so far in shoe technology-it can’t be good for your feet to walk on plain pieces of rubber. I mean, I’m not asking you to float on seven-inch heels like the models. Who expects that? But there’s a compromise. It shouldn’t be Ugg boots or bust.”
Zach Hafer, 27, a lawyer who lives in Brooklyn Heights, has a girlfriend (also a lawyer) who was craving a pair of Ugg boots something bad after she saw the Sunday Times layout.
“She’s always cold,” he said. He tracked down a pair of ultra-tall, size-eight sand Uggs on eBay and got them Airborne Expressed to his office from Arizona two days before Christmas.
“I don’t want to say for how much, because I might look like an idiot,” he said. “But I looked at it like getting tickets: You want to see a playoff basketball game, you gotta pay a premium.”
And is he pleased with the way they look on her?
“I kind of like ‘em, actually,” Mr. Hafer said. “I hate those pointy boots that everybody wears-I mean, I wasn’t drooling, but compared to those pointy-toed shoes …. But then again, I went to Dartmouth.”