The Surprising History Of The Aussie Ugg Boot
There are different claims to the origins of the Ugg boot, and a bit of an argument over who invented them. One thing remains clear, the history of our favorite boot is undoubtedly Australian.
There are recorded accounts of sheepskin boots since the late 1800s, when Australian shepherds used leather straps to lash sheepskin around their feet and ankles. These developed into boots that were common in rural Australia during the 1920s, and were worn by sheep shearers, as they found them resistant to the Lanolin coming off the sheep’s wool, which would rot their ordinary boots. Australian and United Kingdom war pilots laced up sheepskin around their feet to ward off frostbite during unpressurised flights. The pilots may be the originators of the term Ugg, as they called the makeshift boots the “flying Ugg’s” which was short for ugly.
The earliest known commercial manufacturing of the boot was in 1933 in New South Wales by a company known as the Blue Mountains Ugg Boot company, followed by Frank Mortel’s of the Mortel’s Sheepskin Company in the 1950’s and is still operating today. Frank Mortel claims that he was the first to name his company's boots "Ugg boots" in 1958 after his wife commented that the first pair he made were "ugly."
However, the boot truly came into mainstream fashion in the 1970’s with thanks to the Australian surfing community. The local of the Gold Coast and Byron Bay became fond of the fluffy little numbers as a warm place to put cold post surf feet. A local Sydney surfing legend, Shane Stedman, decided to trademark the term “Ugh-Boots” and has since claimed many times publicly that he was the one to have invented the Aussie icon.
Thanks to Shane, the boots became popular internationally among competitive surfers. Advertisements for Australian made Ugg’s were first appearing in Californian surfing magazines in the 1970’s, and local shops were stocking limited numbers of the boots that the owners had picked up during surfing competitions in Australia. The trend in the states was growing rapidly, and the opportunity was not lost on Australian surfer Brian Smith, who made the leap to the Golden State with a suitcase full of sheepskin boots.
Brian and a mate trademarked the term “UGG” in America and set about their own venture as UGG Imports. The business grew and in 1985 Smith registered the trademark “Original UGG Boot UGG Australia”. In 1995, and still based in USA, Smith purchased Stedman’s other trademarks, which made him the sole owner of the name UGG. California’s surf and celebrity culture quickly grew the popularity of the boot, and Smiths company, Ugg Holdings, had an estimated 80% of the global market for the boots. According to retailers, it was not just the look of the footwear that attracted consumers, but the fact that they were made in Australia, as Australia and its products were extremely popular at the time.
In August 1995, Smith sold Ugg Holdings to Deckers Corporation for $14.6 million. Decker’s then ceased sourcing Ugg’s from Australian Manufacturers and moved production overseas. Decker’s secured additional registrations in the U.S. and other countries, and in 1999, began asserting its new trademark by sending out cease and desist letters to Australian manufacturers that were selling sheepskin boots outside of Australia.
This began decades of confusion for both Australian and overseas lovers of the boot, who were torn between the ‘Original Ugg” brand they had loved for so long, and the actual made and Australia generic product. In response to the attack on the Aussie icon from Decker’s, manufacturers formed the Australian Sheepskin Association to help fight the corporations claim, arguing that Ugg is a generic term for sheepskin boots used in Australia for over a century.
The officer who heard the case stated that the "evidence overwhelmingly supports the proposition that the terms Ugg, ugh and ug boots are interchangeably used to describe a specific style of sheepskin boot and are the first and most natural way in which to describe these goods." In 2006 Perth based Ugg’s-N-Rugs won the right to use the term UGG BOOT/S and variations such as UGH BOOT/S within Australia. This 2006 ruling applies only in Australia and Decker’s still owns the trademarks in many other countries, but is no longer allowed to challenge Australian manufacturers for using the term within Australia.
This long and Ugg-ly fight is why we have named our lovely warm, snuggly, wooly, and 100% owned and made in Australia Ugg boots Mozzie! We know the quality and value of a true-blue Australian made Ugg and we want everyone to be able to enjoy them. We are a proud member of the Australian Sheepskin Association who fought for our right to call our boots what they truly are, an Ugg boot! An Aussie icon. Our Mozzie Ugg’s are made here in Melbourne in the traditional tried and true Ugg style that Australians have loved for decades. We do our best to ensure our boots are made to the highest quality, at the best price possible.