The UGGly truth: They're hot, smelly and bad for your feet so why are Ugg boots so popular?
by VINCENT GRAFF - More by this author »
Well, Ugg boots are not in any danger from the Trades Description Act, are they?
If there's one thing in favour of the world's most hideous boots (and there is only one thing), it is the breathtaking honesty of the manufacturer.
In Australia, where they were invented, 'Ugg boot' appears in the dictionary with a little footnote: "Derivation: ugly."
Devotees: (from left) Kate Moss, Eva Longoria and Jennifer Aniston are fans of the Ugg boot
As the man from Ronseal would say, it does what it says on the tin.
This week it was revealed that so many pairs of Ugg boots are still flying off the shelves that stores regularly sell out.
There's certainly something quite magical about the Ugg boot - and I mean that in a literal sense. It has an unexplainable power to change the world.
With a wave of the wand, it can instantly transform the prettiest woman in the slinkiest skirt or clingiest jeans into a clomping elephant barging across the savannah.
It can miraculously unite chic and chav, two tribes who would normally want nothing to do with each other (except when they bump into each other in the tattooist's queue).
Is there any less dainty way to finish off an outfit?
The Ugg boot's problem is fundamental. Sheepskin. It may be hardwearing and warm, but ask any bloke of a certain age what sheepskin says to him and I'm afraid you won't like the answer.
It transports us back to the freezing cold football terraces of the 1970s - a world of mullet haircuts, ludicrous sideburns and nasty meat pies.
And who is at the centre of this vision of Valhalla? A sheepskin-clad John Motson. Some fashion icon, ladies.
Sheep are, of course, renowned for more than their skins. They are best known for brainlessly following the creature in front.
This is probably why my lips curl up into a cruel smile when I read that no sooner have a few paparazzi pictures appeared of Jennifer Aniston, Kate Moss and Eva Longoria wearing their treasured sheepskin boots than thousands of women have stripped the shelves bare of the ghastly things.
"We have sold around 7,000 pairs since August, take 200 to 300 orders on waiting lists each week and have been known to sell up to 600 pairs within hours of a new delivery," says Cos Constantinou, managing director of Kate Kuba, the largest stockists of the boot in this country.
She can't believe her luck.
"No one ever expected Uggs to be so popular," Cos adds.
And with good reason. Look at a pair closely. They are really not boots at all but slippers with ideas above their station. (You can pay £280 for a pair.)
Ask any Ugg owner what makes her boots special and you'll hear the same words over and over again.
They're comfy, they're warm, they feel so lovely on your feet.
The same words you'll hear from your elderly uncle as he politely unwraps his latest pair of carpet slippers on Christmas Day.
None of this scares off the true convert.
"I'm an absolute believer in the Ugg boot. I don't wear them for the impact or the style, it's because they're so comfortable and warm," says Katie Melville, 25, who works for an advertising agency and is now on her fifth pair.
Her friend Lexi Serebro, 21, a trainee chef, has also been won over by 'how practical and comfortable they are'.
Well, hold on a moment. Apart from the romantic notion that one is supposed to suffer for one's fashion (isn't that why God invented the stiletto?), let's examine the comfort of the things.
It would take me a lifetime to persuade Katie or Lexi out of their addiction, but it only takes a moment to learn that, actually, these fashion outrages are not even as practical as they're made out to be.
"I wore them in the snow last year," says Lexi. Well, you would, wouldn't you because they're so warm - except Ugg boots are not waterproof.
"My feet were soaking. It was a nightmare."
Oh, and if it's not below freezing outside, 'they are quite warm. Sometimes my feet are rather too hot,' Lexi admits.
Meanwhile, Katie says: "On the box it says you should wear them without socks. But if you do that they really get quite smelly."
On a more aesthetic note, she adds: "My boyfriend thinks they're very un-ladylike. He doesn't like the look of them - he'd prefer me in a nice pair of heels, I think."
The reason why the Australian manufacturers recommend you don't wear socks is because Down Under the Ugg boot is not worn outdoors. (Hence the lack of waterproofing.)
It was only when the boot arrived in America - and was given a huge boost by Oprah Winfrey in 2000, who spent more than $50,000 buying pairs for her 350 staff and included them on her Oprah's Favourite Things show - that it occurred to anyone to wear them in a place where strangers might see them.
My work colleague Katherine still shudders at the memory of her mother, an early addict who bought a pair on holiday in Australia in 1990, turning up to collect her at school in her new boots.
"Me and my brother were mortified," she recalls. "Why was our mum the only person standing in the rain in clunky slippers?"
It was, of course, only a matter of time before they arrived in the shops over here.
When they came, in the summer of 2003, they were an instant hit, despite the fact that Geri Halliwell was a prominent fan.
The fact that Vogue magazine went mad for them - as did Kate Moss - probably explains why they took off so quickly.
Meanwhile, don't get too carried away by the idea that - just because they're not stilettos, and just because they don't look glam - Uggs are an unmitigated blessing for your feet.
Michael O'Neill, from the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, says that though he'd much rather women wore them than high heels, Uggs do come with their dangers - because the foot is not very well supported.
"I saw a young woman last week who had completely wrecked the boot at the back - the sole is a very soft material and it hadn't held her foot in position.
"This can cause a lowering of the arch, which can cause tendon strain. Her sole had just worn through, like you'd find on the slippers of an old lady hobbling around a nursing home."
So, they look awful, they're not as comfortable as you've been told and they're not even terribly good for your feet.
Oh, and one other thing: Tesco now sells a pair of lookalike Ugg boots for £8.
When this year's fashion must-have goes on sale a few aisles away from Toilet Duck and Oxo cubes, you know it's time to move on. Ugg? Ugh!