Ugg boot plans a march into men's fashion

By Ian Johnston

To the horror of many fashionistas, Ugg boots have become an unlikely high street phenomenon thanks in part to celebrity endorsement by the likes of Kate Moss, Uma Thurman and Sarah Jessica Parker.

But now the American firm behind the craze for sheepskin is setting out to convince the nation's men that there is an Ugg boot for them too, with Brad Pitt, Justin Timberlake, Harvey Keitel and Ronnie Wood, plus a selection of Chelsea footballers, reportedly blazing a trail that the less style-conscious might fear to tread.

If successful, it would take the boots full circle to their origins as the footwear of choice for that most manly of men, the Australian sheep-shearer. Uggs, said to be an abbreviation of ugly, were also used by early aviators to keep their feet warm before being adopted by Aussie surfers emerging shivering from a long day on the waves in the 1970s.

Connie Rishwain, president of the US-owned firm Ugg Australia, admitted that convincing men to wear them may take some doing, but insisted the boot had a universal appeal.

"It's a feelgood brand," she said. "We're all about comfort and luxury. And at a time when people might not be able to remodel their house or buy a new car, they can buy a pair of boots."

She said a launch of Ugg in Covent Garden would be attended by Chelsea footballers and their apparent endorsement would help open up a whole new market.

"I pinch myself every time I see a pair on someone famous," Ms Rishwain added. "It helps that they are such a recognisable item too: it's so obviously an Ugg boot in those pictures."

Stefan Lindemann, the shopping editor of Grazia, said he thought Uggs would ultimately prove popular with men, although it might take time for the trend to catch on, because "men aren't as fashion-savvy as women".

He plans to go to the new Westfield shopping mall in White City, west London, this week to buy a pair.

He added: "The classic Ugg boots are fun for the home and the beach but not for the town. They should be worn for surfing but not for London's streets."

But Uggs remain as divisive as Crocs, the plastic Canadian clogs despised and loved in equal measure.

The editor of a men's magazine, who declined to be named for fear of potentially losing advertising, said of Uggs: "They are a monstrosity. They are like glorified slippers. You may as well shuffle down the street in your pyjamas and a pair of incontinence pants."

- INDEPENDENT

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