|photo credit: Stephen Lewis|
Etymological legend says that 'uggs' or 'fugs' began as shorthand to describe the knee-high sheepskin boots Aussie pilots wore in WWI... you need your Flying Uggs in that unpressurized cockpit, Mate! Shoe companies have been using the 'Ugg' title ever since (see: 1930's company Blue Mountain Ugg Boots).
Now, we say UGG like we say KLEENEX, the registered trademark has transcended brand status, coming to identify the entire genus albeit but one species.
But it's been an uneasy and litigious rise:
- "In the process of transforming an item of utilitarian footwear into a ubiquitous fashion icon, UGG’s corporate parent, Deckers Outdoor Corporation—an American conglomerate selling an Australian sheepskin product manufactured in China—sparked an acrimonious international trademark dispute that ensnared politicians, reshaped fashion and hobbled a national industry in order to shape a global one." (Wall Street Journal online, Sept 9 2010)
Deckers, the American company that bought Uggs in 1995, has aggressively hunted the competition through:
- trademark infringement lawsuits (ie: against rival sheepskin boot company Koolaburra),
- “The... law suit makes us laugh down here in Australia. What does the word “Australia” convey to consumers as part of the Ugg® Australia trademark? Customers do care about trust and true brand heritage...they are also smart! Eventually the truth about these brands that try to leverage off Australia will become widely known; that they are not in fact genuinely Australian.”
|Pammy Anderson, on the set of Baywatch|
Uggs is now the high school mean girl, so popular and powerful that she doesn't need your approval anymore. But... I'm sensing the inevitable backlash, cafeteria revolt, and regime change. Uggs corporate stance presumes there are only two kinds of people who don't do the sheepskin shuffle: those who can't afford $180 boots and those who just haven't bought a pair... YET. This we-don't-need-your-business-but-we'll-take-your-money attitude is particularly dangerous for a company that proffers a utilitarian item, steeped in heritage. Suing Australian companies for manufacturing their traditional footwear looks ugly on an American company that does all their work in Economic Processing Zones like China. This Goliath just keeps kicking David while he's down, and it's distasteful enough to turn non-Ugg wearers like myself into Ugg-boycotters.
So good luck in court, Emu.
I can't imagine Emu Australia's advocates needing to say anything other than this:
Take a look inside, not even the company, but the boot itself.
Emu Australia, Made in Australia
Uggs, Made in China.