Love them or hate them: Either way, uggs are back
Throughout the years, the world has had an off-on relationship with UGG’s signature sheepskin boots. But, love it or hate it, they are back in style, and even top celebrities have been showing them off on social media.
Shinsegae International’s S.I. Village, an e-commerce fashion site, reported that sales for the American fashion brand from January to October this year jumped by 75.1 percent compared with the same period last year.
In October alone, the brand saw an 86.4 percent on-year increase.
In Korea, these furry shearling boots were immensely popular in the 2000s but virtually disappeared from the streets by 2010.
It was only some time after the Covid-19 pandemic that fashion lovers started to tolerate — if not fully embrace — them again, as the world sought after comfortable wear as many stayed home. Called “one-mile wear” in Korean, the phrase refers to clothing suitable to wear both inside the comfort of your own home and also when making quick trips outside, within “one mile” of where you live.
The term uggs originated in Australia and refers to the sheepskin boots from UGG or any other similar type of sheepskin boots.
Due to their surging footwear sales, S.I. Village, UGG’s importer, recently decided to also launch UGG’s clothing line in Korea for the first time as well.
For the month of November, the clothing line was sold offline at a temporary pop-up store in Hongdae, part of western Seoul’s Mapo District, which featured fleece jackets, coats, hoodies and crewneck shirts — think, a garment reincarnation of uggs.
Another pop-up store opened at the cafe Time After Time in Seongsu-dong, a fashion hub for the young and hip in eastern Seoul’s Seongdong District, and will run until Dec. 3. Titled “Feel House,” the “multi-sensory community space” by UGG is also held in New York and China and on the metaverse platform Zepeto.
Zepeto offers an online version of “Feel House,” called “UGG World,” which opened on its metaverse site last week.
The popularity of uggs in Korea can be pinpointed back to 2004, after the airing of KBS television melodrama series “I’m Sorry, I Love You.” Starring actors Lim Soo-jung and So Ji-sub, the drama was a huge hit, ending with the highest viewership rating of a show at that time, at 29.2 percent. It also saw numerous remakes in different countries — in Turkey in 2013, China in 2014 and Japan in 2017.
Aside from the plot and chemistry between the two actors, however, was another star: a long multicolor sweater and ivory classic uggs worn by Lim.
After the show, the streets of Korea were filled with women wearing sweater dresses or miniskirts with uggs, and the boots’ heyday lasted through the decade. Celebrities like Lee Hyo-ri and Yu Jae-seok wore them in the SBS variety show “Family Outing” (2008-10) during the cast members’ usual overnight stay in a remote, rural area.
Wearing uggs in the wintertime was commonplace at the time, until the 2010s when people began to slowly stray away from the plush shoes.
“Uggs tend to be bulky, and that makes them stand out too much,” said Kim Jung-hyun, a 25-year-old who lives in Seocho District, southern Seoul, who says he bought UGG boots last year.
“Nowadays, I think people are more comfortable wearing uggs that have an understated design; I also like a casual style.”
The style change believed to be a big contributor in bringing the brand’s boots back into the spotlight lies in the height of the shaft and platform.
According to the UGG page on S.I. Village’s website, all ugg boots that have a short shaft — such as the classic ultra mini or just classic mini — are completely sold out as of press time. Some with a higher platform are also high in demand, with multiple out of stock.
Another hot seller is the slipper designs, a majority of them also completely sold out. This is a conspicuous change in trend compared with the 2000s, during which mainly longer uggs that rose to about mid-shin were frequently worn.
“When the pandemic drove a lot of people to opt for sweatpants, they would tuck the bottom of their pants into their uggs, and a shorter shaft was more comfortable” for that, a PR employee for S.I. Village told the Korea JoongAng Daily.
“The same goes for the ugg slippers. The fur adds warmth for your feet, which contributed to making them become so popular. The signature chestnut color continues to be a closet staple, but lately we’ve seen the pink and lime colors of the slippers surge in sales too.”
The sweatpants and ankle-length mini ugg boots combo has already been spotted on celebrities, domestically and abroad, like Blackpink’s Lisa and Gigi Hadid. But even the longer uggs haven’t completely fallen out of style — with the resurrection of uggs in general, celebs like Yeri of Red Velvet, television personality Keem Na-young and actor Yoon Seung-ah still have all been seen sporting the classics.
BY SHIN MIN-HEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]