The Remarkably Unlikely However Entirely Predictable Return of Uggs

It commenced with Rihanna, as these things so frequently do.

It was the halcyon times of 2018 and the pop singer and vogue icon wore a pair of Uggs to — the place else? — the Coachella audio pageant.

Not your ordinary pair, like the typical boots produced famous by a Juicy Couture-clad Lindsay Lohan at the height of her Us Weekly fame in the early aughts. This pair was a collaboration with the Belgian designer Glenn Martens of the avant-garde label Y/Venture, who exploded the ostentatiously unsexy design and style to Brobdingnagian proportions, yielding a variation that was high-heeled, slouchy and attained perfectly earlier mentioned mid-thigh. A photo of Rihanna in the wader-like footwear amassed much more than 3.3 million likes on Instagram, and even Vogue couldn’t resist their strange attract.

“The C.F.O. was not tremendous-enthusiastic about them,” Andrea O’Donnell, the Ugg brand name president, recalled. Just after viewing a CNN information segment of the Y/Undertaking runway present in which they ended up unveiled, “he came in and explained, ‘Tell me that I didn’t see thigh-superior boots, on a catwalk, worn by a man,’” she stated, laughing.

Ms. O’Donnell had been employed in 2016 to assistance reposition the brand name with buyers who linked Ugg with the vintage boot in its purest kind: shin-significant, slip-on, mocha brown and lined in sheepskin. It was a relaxed design and style, to be worn with yoga trousers when working errands. Ugg desired to widen its picture to encompass additional style-forward associations.

And Ugg experienced shed its luster. The moment the boot du jour for carefree socialites and off-duty starlets, it had become element of the uniform of a certain upwardly cellular consumer with bland bourgeoisie taste. The label was rarely the first to expertise this trajectory. It is a prevalent one particular in trend: Factors that after had an air of exclusivity and mystique are then completely absorbed by the culture. Uggs have been beloved but mass marketplace.

Ms. O’Donnell, who arrived from the luxurious department keep Lane Crawford, moved to Santa Barbara, Calif., exactly where Deckers, the Ugg mum or dad corporation, is centered, and bought down to function, initiating a sequence of significant-profile collaborations to inject some glamour into the label.

“We wanted to interact the fashion local community about what our model could be,” Ms. O’Donnell explained.

She has given that assembled a roster of collaborations that are as eclectic as they are eccentric. Far from tapping, say, luxurious labels in the European mold (latest partnerships in between Prada and Adidas or Dior and Nike Air Jordan arrive to mind), Ugg selected designers with edgier, artier inclinations, which assisted reinforce what Ms. O’Donnell said is the brand’s prospective to be each aspirational and accessible.

“Ugg truly desired to reinvent itself,” claimed Ayako Homma, an analyst at the current market research company Euromonitor Intercontinental, citing current market saturation and counterfeits as factors for waning customer desire. “And collaborations are a fantastic way to revamp the brand picture by bringing in new kinds and new people — primarily teenagers and young older people, lots of of whom could not be acquainted with the manufacturer or haven’t owned a pair ahead of.”

Last year, the arty bicoastal duo driving Eckhaus Latta built clunky sq.-toed clogs and mules, and the louche streetwear label Stampd produced a convertible pair that could change from slippers to boots, which the web-site Highsnobiety called “peak function from house footwear.”

Upcoming up are the British designer Molly Goddard, she of the tulle extravaganzas, who showed system mules, shaggy slippers and boots with floral appliqués at her spring 2021 show, and the Brooklyn designer Telfar Clemens, whose patchwork, symbol-strewn boots (as well as bedazzled T-shirts, oversize hoodies and fur-lined bucket hats) will be introduced subsequent yr.

“They are mainly an available luxurious,” claimed Mr. Clemens, who has upended old strategies about gender and identification. “It’s a Christmas list detail for hundreds of thousands of individuals. That’s the kind of room we want to occupy.”

Division stores known for their discerning item combine, like Nordstrom and the Canadian retailer SSENSE, have taken observe and commenced to carry the constrained-version releases.

“The fully unexpected character of the collaborations proceeds to preserve the manufacturer appropriate,” claimed Brian Costello, the vice president and merchandise manager for women’s footwear at Nordstrom. And when the restricted editions crank out exhilaration inside of targeted communities, they do so with no alienating lovers of the main assortment.

Ms. O’Donnell, whose initial memory of the brand name is Pamela Anderson carrying Uggs with her pink “Baywatch” swimsuit (Ms. Anderson, an animal-legal rights activist, has because renounced the boots), phone calls the vintage boot a “cultural icon.” That sort of converse is typically ballyhoo, but in this she’s not wrong. Uggs permeated the zeitgeist in a way several other footwear makes can claim.

Oprah Winfrey involved them in her yearly “Favorite Things” episodes, starting up in 2003, creating a frenzy. Superstars generally wore them involving usually takes whilst filming, which continued to elevate their profile. And starlets helped forge an picture of them as glamorous and casual in the early portion of the century. At first they were being worn by surfers to retain their toes heat following a morning of wave-driving, giving them instant avenue (sea
side?) cred. Continue to, with no continual tending and innovation, a brand built all-around one particular signature item can conveniently get stuck in a rut.

“Uggs will always and without end remind me of coming of age in the early aughts, looking at them on celebs like Jessica Simpson on ‘Newlyweds’ or Paris Hilton searching at Kitson,” stated Tyler McCall, the editor in main of the Fashionista site. “Lately, although, they also bring up pictures of a really certain, neat-artwork-scene kid.”

For Ms. McCall, it was all those Y/Undertaking boots that served her see the boots anew. “At very first it was like, ‘Wait, these are insane!” then, ‘Are these insane, nevertheless?’ and eventually, ‘Wait, perhaps these are so crazy they are neat?’”

“With the world wide web, it feels like there is a dizzying quantity and array of trend circles, and Ugg has produced its way into a couple of them,” Ms. McCall claimed. “Whether it’s persons interested in these buzzy collaborations or those who want to don them with a form of nod-wink ironic nudge to that millennial aesthetic.”

Although the collaborations have been able to whip up excitement in the style local community, serendipitous outdoors forces have included to Ugg’s new very good fortune. It is a single of couple vogue makes poised to benefit from the novel coronavirus as continue to be-at-property orders and mandated quarantines created a surge in acceptance for cozy apparel and equipment, like sweats and household slippers. Uggs could be just the regression we all need in these times.

In addition, nostalgia for tendencies from the early aughts has professional a renaissance in new years, fueling a fervor for Puma sneakers, Prada nylon luggage and other manufacturers of the period. And when Uggs have been derided by some as downright unattractive, ugly sneakers are preferred in particular interesting-child circles. Ms. Homma of Euromonitor likened Ugg’s trajectory to the ascent of a further unpleasant-covetable shoe: Crocs.

In its most latest quarterly earnings call, in late October, Ugg described a modest boost in net product sales, at 2.5 %. Ms. Homma pointed out that, thinking of the challenging retail natural environment of the previous calendar year, that determine really reads as pretty resilient.

In September, Lyst, the fashion research system, noted: “As unappealing boots are replacing hideous sandals put up-summer time, demand from customers for Ugg boots is rising 24 p.c 7 days on 7 days. Around the earlier month, there have been a lot more than 41,000 lookups for the brand.”

Also, the availability of these distinct partnerships is concentrated, with the best purpose of creating a halo effect around other goods, like the Fluff assortment, which has been noticed on Serena Williams, Cardi B and Justin Bieber (who, in 2010, informed Seventeen magazine he believed Uggs ended up “ugly”).

To further more expand its picture, the business a short while ago unveiled a marketing campaign starring the pierced and tattooed Dennis Rodman and the pink-haired skater du jour Evan Mock mugging on a particles-filled mansion lawn. And final month a new flagship keep strategy, which leans closely into sensual curves and terrazzo floors, was unveiled on Fifth Avenue.

So, like it or not, Uggs are neat again. Or possibly they were being always cool. Or, holding in head the peculiar and fickle strategies that developments ebb and stream in the social media period, possibly they had been under no circumstances neat, which is what tends to make them, nicely, awesome.