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Mor’ What’s the first image that pops into your head when you think of Ugg boots? Probably not the tan coloured, sheepskin lined boots themselves.
More likely you’re thinking of the girl wearing the boots. Her name might be Rochelle, or Charlene, or Mikaela.
She’s in her 20s, blonde hair and tight jeans, scuffing out of a suburban shopping mall near you.
But a strange thing happened about five years ago. Ugg boots started popping up in glossy magazines, warming the A grade feet of celebrities like Kate Moss, Sarah Jessica Parker and Jennifer Aniston.
Even Oprah recommended them as a Christmas gift. Suddenly, Rochelle and Mikaela weren’t just fashionable, they were fashion leaders. Lower Hutt was 10 years ahead of Hollywood.
How the heck did this happen? To be honest, our friends over the ditch probably had more to do with Ugg’s rise than Rochelle or Mikaela.
While the origins of Uggs are hotly disputed, many believe they were invented by Australian surfers to keep their toes warm after spending all day in the water. And it was an Aussie surfer, Brian Smith, who took the boots to the United States in the 1980s.
The boots enjoyed a niche in Californian beach communities but it wasn’t until Smith’s Ugg brand was bought out by a US company, Deckers Outdoor Corporation, that sales really took off.
From the late 1990s, Deckers took an educated punt and began marketing Uggs as fashion footwear, not just comfy boots to slop around in. Success took a while to build but by the early 2000s, the brand revamp began to pay off, big time.
In 2002, Deckers’ Ugg sales were a modest $24 million. By 2009, that figure had grown to $711 million and this year, sales are on track to exceed $800 million.