Why Ugg Boots Just Keep on Trending
This fall, Campbell Puckett, an influencer based in Atlanta, spent three weeks calling Ugg stores across the country until she found a pair of the brand’s ultra-mini platform boots in her size. “I was even willing to go a size up or down to make it work,” she says. After seeing the new style, which hits just above the ankle, on models Bella Hadid and Elsa Hosk in September, she had to have them for herself, she explains. But she was far from alone. After Hadid wore the shoes, which cost $150, with scrunched-up white athletic socks and mini shorts while on a walk to get a slice of pizza one afternoon, searches for them increased by 152 percent, according to the brand. No stores could stock them fast enough. “Some people loved them, and some people hated them,” Puckett says. “But the people who wanted them really wanted them.”
“We got calls all the time from customers, but we just didn’t have enough product to meet the demand,” Tacey Powers, Nordstrom’s executive vice president and general merchandise manager for shoes, says of the surge that season. The ultra mini was the retailer’s top footwear style in Q3 of 2022, and likely would have been for Q4 as well, had there been any left on the shelves. Around the holidays, when parents were particularly desperate for a pair, Powers says she even got calls on her personal line from friends asking if she had an in. (She couldn’t help them.)
Since Ugg was founded 45 years ago in Southern California, the brand has evolved from a surfer favorite to a household name and an unlikely part of fashion history. Despite its most iconic style looking like a toasted loaf of bread, it has managed to remain relevant for so long by putting out products that are relatively affordable, extremely comfortable, and worn by just about every celebrity and influencer under the sun, from Adam Sandler to Zendaya. While staying true to its original (and admirably odd) DNA, the brand has also consistently evolved its offering with new styles and collaborations. The cropped, elevated ultra minis are a particularly smart combination of newness and nostalgia: They feel far enough away from the 2000s high-tops that the next generation can make them their own, while still being a throwback. Their success marks the beginning of yet another wave of Ugg mania.
In 2000, Uggs went from being those boots worn by surfers (and Pamela Anderson on Baywatch) to a mainstream must-have. Oprah declared the boots one of her Favorite Things, kicking off what many see as their heyday, when Y2K icons like Kate Moss, Sienna Miller, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and countless others (including men like Leonardo DiCaprio) made you feel like you were missing out if you didn’t have Uggs in your closet. In 2003, the brand introduced sorbet colors, and Oprah put them on her list again. That year, sales soared from $121 million to $214 million, and Footwear News declared Ugg the Brand of the Year.
On celebrities, Uggs look aspirationally casual, maybe even cool. (In the aughts, we’d call this look a “hot mess.” Now it’s more “scumbro.”) The fashion world also found a way to embrace them, sometimes ironically. The late Vogue editor André Leon Talley was a fan. In 2009, the brand collaborated with Jimmy Choo, followed by Swarovski and then the launch of Ugg Collection, its “high fashion” line, which included heels. Nordstrom has been an Ugg retailer for over a decade. Powers says that when they started working together, the shoes were so popular that the store even had a dedicated Ugg hotline.
In 2012, things took a slight turn. Sales for Deckers, the brand’s parent company, dropped 31 percent, and Uggs were finally declared “over.” (That doesn't mean they disappeared entirely, though: Powers says sales have remained consistent at Nordstrom, spiking whenever a new look is introduced.) By then, the boots were a reminder of a time many perhaps wanted to forget. Some also considered them “basic”—a word that entered the lexicon around 2014 to describe a preference for things that were arguably too obvious.
By 2015, though, Uggs had already been resurrected. Vogue declared “The Return of the Ugg Boot,” along with a “bohemian spirit” in general that year, suggesting readers style the boots with fishnets, vintage dresses, and chunky knits. The fashion media has been saying “Uggs are back” pretty much ever since, as the brand has introduced new styles and celebrity ambassadors and collaborated with designers like Molly Goddard and Telfar.
This moment feels different, though. Uggs aren’t just a staple or a fun, ironic accessory; they’re the thing the next generation of Paris Hiltons feels like they will die if they don’t have. And yes, many of the new fans are discovering the shoes for the first time. On TikTok, where the brand’s account has amassed some three million likes, you’ll find videos of people cutting their high-top Uggs with scissors to make them into mangled ultra minis. It’s a level of Ugg passion that we arguably haven’t seen in years, since the early 2000s. Last quarter, the fashion search engine Lyst named Ugg one of the top 20 brands for the first time since the index was created in 2017, up there with names like Gucci and Prada.
“Our classic mini boots have been in the line as a fan favorite for quite some time, and when the classic ultra-mini boot was introduced in 2020, it became just as covetable—especially in our iconic chestnut colorway,” says Anne Spangenberg, president of Ugg & Koolaburra by Ugg at Deckers. So excitement had been building for some time, and when the brand introduced platforms for the first time this fall, they instantly went viral.
How could such a slight variation in silhouette suddenly have such a huge impact? For starters, there’s her impact. (Her being Bella Hadid, of course.) The model’s dollar-slice outfit instantly went down in the Uggs hall of fame, next to Paris Hilton’s Juicy tracksuits and Ashley Tisdale’s denim miniskirt. It reminded us that Uggs aren’t just a way to comfortably run to the corner store for a snack; they can be a part of your personal style as well.
“As a true and longtime fan of Uggs, I have found myself reintroducing and suggesting them in most of my clients’ wardrobes,” says stylist Mimi Cuttrell, who works with Gigi Hadid and Ariana Grande. “Generally, I have stayed away from styling them with anything too formal, but in some cases that contrast really works. Wearing them underneath a tailored suit, or jeans and a long coat, is the direction I would normally take.”
Because of their height, the minis can more easily be styled with jeans or pants and offer more to work with in terms of sock choice. They also have what I’d like to call the Candlestick Effect, in that they make any wearer look like they have legs for days—especially the platforms, which, in addition to height, provide slightly more edge, like a cozy Doc Marten boot.
You can wear these new styles to the deli, to drinks, and even to the office. After so much time spent barefoot or in slippers working from home, Uggs feel like a socially acceptable alternative to hard shoes post-lockdown. At Social & Co, a social-media company based in Durham, England, one employee named Emily Young looked around one day this fall to find herself surrounded by coworkers wearing mini Uggs. “It started with a couple of girls wearing them while others waited for the restock, and then it just got to the point where we all had them at the same time,” she recalls. “It became like a cult.”
“We’re all in our 20s, so we jump on each other’s hypes,” Young says. “As soon as one person has one thing, in a couple of weeks everyone will have it.” It got to the point where around seven or eight women in an office of 30 had them on at the same time. But she also adds that Uggs weren’t so popular in the office before people started working from home. “The pandemic definitely had an impact,” she says. “It’s like wearing slippers to the office.”
So the Uggs-aissance can be chalked up to a combination of more casual dress codes, a Y2K revival, New York becoming Los Angeles, and the power of social media to convince everyone that they need to do the same thing. It’s also true that people keep coming back to the brand because, unlike much else in life, it is reliable. Despite inflation, Uggs remain relatively affordable. Like with Birkenstocks and Adidas Sambas, customers can also trust that when they put on a pair, they’re going to feel like they always have, which is to say: really, really good. And then they’ll likely never want to take them off.
That said, what goes up must come down. “After that one day in the office, I think we were like, Oh, maybe we should pull back a bit. This has gotten a bit ridiculous,” Young says of the trend’s inevitable tipping point. “So there has been a little bit of a drop-off. But people have gotten new styles. A few of the girls have black ones, so they’re a bit more discreet. A couple of others have the platforms. They definitely still get worn a lot.”
You Might Also Like