The biggest-kept secret of the fashion industry is that everyone wears Ugg boots.
My first pair of Uggs were tall, beige and purchased at Nordstrom with a parent present. They rendered all other shoes in my high school closet obsolete until June of 2010, when I moved to New York City and left a row of them behind to mourn their youth. In recent years, I have worked a chestnut pair back into a slow, quiet rotation — to run errands, to take out the trash, for a few different articles. They always felt contraband, like sneaking a cigarette behind the back of a partner who doesn’t smoke. But I was not alone.
In March 2016, The Guardian published an article called “Ugg: the look that refused to die.” In it, the author references a 2015 Vogue UK article: “The Return of the Ugg Boot” — supermodels were back on board. October of that same year, Elle.com Senior Fashion Editor Nikki Ogunnaike broke her silence on the matter with the piece, “I Wear Ugg Boots and I Don’t Care If That Makes Me a Basic Bitch.” Then, in February 2017, black shearling boots in an unmistakable Ugg-like silhouette walked down the Alexander Wang Fall/Winter 2017 runway. Though Wang was unable to offer a comment for this breaking news story, the projected reference was enough; Uggs were back.
“Did they ever really go away?” InStyle Accessories Director Sam Broekema asked me (rhetorical question) when I emailed him. Broekema, a well-dressed wise man if there ever was one, was not alone in this “don’t call it a comeback” sentiment.
“Have we not been tripping over fuzzy Gucci slides and other boots-with-fur variations all this time?” asked Sophia Macks, founder of Beyond the Mag. “We never stopped loving Uggs.”
In fact, most everyone I spoke to voiced a similar hypothesis: that Uggs remained steady players in all of our wardrobes for their comfort — we simply became sick of them for a while. But if, as Macks pointed out, there are more fashionable alternatives to wearing stuffed animals (including literal stuffed animals per Dolce & Gabbana’s Winter 2017 show), what brought Uggs, specifically, back into fashion’s good graces?
Broekema, who switches to Ugg shearling slippers in classic beige the moment he walks into the door every night “like Mr. Rogers,” said, “No one wants to be told they can’t be comfortable anymore.”
Laurel Pantin, Editorial Director of The Coveteur, is one of those people. “I’m generally opposed to shunning any type of footwear — especially comfortable footwear — so I’m into Uggs coming back. They make a lot of sense in New York, and putting them on is what I imagine a dog feels like when you scratch his belly.” Pantin, who isn’t afraid of Crocs either, wears Uggs to workout classes and said they’ve proven especially useful during polar vortexes.
Leandra Medine, a woman with the most profound pain tolerance in the name of shoes I have ever met, wore a pair of Uggs during New York’s most recent blizzard. She attributes the sudden appreciation for weather-appropriate footwear to the fact that Uggs’ original fanbase (beyond Australian surfers) has grown up. “We are too damn old to sacrifice warmth and comfort for aesthetics.”
“The brilliance of the Ugg boot lies in its warmth,” said Ruthie Friedlander, Site Director of InStyle.com. “I’d never wear Uggs with bare legs on a hot day anymore. Story for you, though: I was given my first pair for Chanukah in 2004. They were the high ones, with some of the shearling ON THE OUTSIDE. Super chic. I wore them with a skirt on vacation in Laguna Beach and a woman stopped me on the street. She offered me $1,000 cash for my shoes. Her daughter had been ‘dying for them.’ I said no. That’s how obsessed I was. I did not take $1,000 for a pair of boots that I didn’t even pay for myself.”
“I wore them when I went home to visit my parents,” said Danielle Prescod, also a 2004 Ugg adopter and the first friend of mine to wear Uggs again in public. She vouched for their comfort, yes, but also tapped into the element of celebrity: “I really got down with wearing Uggs to yoga when their super-short style debuted in conjunction with my life goal princess, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.”
Beyond model endorsements and comfort is the argument that Uggs are cool again because of the industry’s current early-2000s redux.
“Alexander Wang once said he was a ‘90s kid,” pointed out Julia Gall, Senior Fashion & Accessories Editor at Interview Magazine, who thinks Uggs are “pretty chic.” “It makes sense that he would inevitably tap into the things that made up a ‘00s kid.’”
Nicole Chapoteau, Allure Accessories Director and Ugg lover who wears hers to walk her kids to school, tied this resurgence to the fashion zeitgeist at large. “Over the past few seasons, we’ve seen nostalgic trends stem from streetwear — Champion sweatshirts, Adidas shower shoes, Juicy tracksuits — and we go crazy for them.”
“Vetements trickle-down effect,” said Sophia Macks.
“I never really thought bootcut pants or oversized shoulders would come back, but they have,” said Stephanie Tran, a former designer who is now Photo Editor at Bloomberg Businessweek and Co-Founder of The New Jock. “I’m not surprised about Uggs. There are so many ways of updating old trends and finding ways to make them new and interesting.”
“It’s the same thing with Crocs,” Gall said. “Crocs and Uggs are not good-looking shoes, but the idea of contrarian fashion is exciting to young people. It’s fun when the fashion cycle brings passé or basic items back in an ironic way. Ugly fashion is so popular.” Gall also floated the idea that people are reaching for the comfort of Uggs because they are feeling “the approaching apocalypse.”
Whether the prodigal son returned or a shoe that never left (relegated instead to the back of our closets, marked with a scarlet “Basic”), Uggs are back in fashion.
…so how the hell do you wear them?
There are those who stick to the coming and going of errands and athletic activities, like Laurel Pantin, Ruthie Friedlander and Danielle Prescod. For them, it’s about classic pairings: leggings, sweatpants and jeans. Then, there are those who think about Uggs a bit more conceptually.
“I want Uggs to make a thigh-high pair,” said Sophia Macks.
“I’d wear mine with a Vetements tracksuit, obviously,” said Julia Gall.
Leandra already has a full Uggfit planned: “Uggs with black leggings, a white T-shirt and a fitted tweed jacket.”
“The key is to make them about a fashion statement instead of just comfort,” Nicole Chapoteau instructed. “Wear them with a dress or skirt, even a suit and a big furry coat, similar to the way Céline made us fall in love with Birkenstocks.”
Group consensus, however you wear them, is to stay away from salt, snow slush and puddles. Other than that, as with all style choices, Uggs are fair game, open to the brave.
“I just wore a black pair to a Visionaire party during fashion week,” said Stephanie Tran. “Everything was fine.“
Last Saturday, Elle.com’s fashion editor — who outed herself as an Ugg fan in 2016 — wore her once-stigmatized shearling boots from Flywheel to Freds restaurant at Barneys. “At first I felt a little self-conscious, but then a voice asked, ‘Who cares? Who are you trying to impress?’ And I kept it moving.”
Photos via Getty Images.