Top 25 "It" products of all time: #12 -- Uggs

Uggs. It's the brand people love to hate. But that's before they try on a pair.

Ever since Uggs, the Australian boot made with Merino sheepskin, became popular with the beautiful people, they've become an easy target for the masses. They're ugly. Yes. They're expensive. Yes. They're too trendy. Well, they were. Hopefully their temporary fling with the feet of starlettes all over Los Angeles and Vale has cooled and they will return to the people who have always known and loved them: The surfers. And all us slobs who like comfort more than the latest "it" shoe.

Growing up in the '70s and '80s on the beaches of Southern California, I didn't have a pair of Uggs. They were surfer wear. And you had to be a cool enough, connected enough, surfer to know a mate in Oz who'd agree to ship you over a pair or two (my brothers wore them, though.) They remained a niche market until sometime in the mid-90s, when Hollywood fashionistas discovered them. It wasn't long before the masses started lining up to buy their own pairs.

In the 1990s the Decker's Outdoor Corp. bought the copyright and began importing them. Up until then, in Austrailia, at least, the term uggs, or ughs, were common slang for any sheepskin boot. But leave it to the Americans to move in for the kill. In 2003 Decker's sued to copyright the term, and in 2005 it moved production to China. Uggs went positively mainstream.

At the height of their popularity, you couldn't find a pair in the stores for love or money. Some people bought several pair, from the basic models to the fancier sorts, with harder soles and trims and price tags approaching $250. People bought Uggs for their babies, even. Ugg.

Now Uggs were ubiquitous. And still ugly.

And still selling well, even though the stars are no longer shod in ugliness (at least not on the red carpet), people have come to love the incredible comfort of sheepskin boots. Decker's Outdoor Corp. reported record sales for the third quarter, 2008. Uggs sales grew an astounding 57%. Nothing ugly about that.

Love them or hate them, the Ugg boot is here to stay.

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