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Thursday, May 06, 2021

On campuses across the country, iconic, fleece-lined Australian boots manage to sneak their way onto the legs of seemingly fashion-conscious girls year after year.

They are ubiquitous, unavoidable.

They are Uggs.

Though the fashionistas and celebutantes who once made the boots a need-to-own item would now end up on the worst dressed list for donning a pair, Ugg boots remain a staple in the wardrobe of college girls.

Despite the shoes' outdated association, perhaps the Ugg devotees continue to wear them because they consider the boots comfortable and a necessity in cold weather. Or maybe the steep price tag is what keeps the iconic sheepskin shoes in our closets and swarming our legs.

Still, it seems to perplex the Ugg-less. This almost six-year-old item that is still worn by meticulously dressed girls who would normally shun anything considered "out of fashion."

Non-Ugg-wearers also maybe confused because Ugg's sales are not declining either. Last Christmas, Yahoo reported that Ugg boots were the second most reserved gift for Canadian shoppers.

Chicago native Ashley Kraus, an entrepreneurship student at Indiana University, said she and other Ugg fans insist that fashion takes a back seat to comfort for the boots. At the height of the craze, she said she would have worn them even if they were uncomfortable.

Now, she can't give them up because they feel so good.

She added that on a cold campus like hers, the wool-lined boots are a necessity. She said the rest of the student body holds the same sentiment.

Even in the warmer climate of the sunshine state, UF girls still share the same commitment.

On campus, packs of girls parade about in the boots, some in cold weather, others in warmer.

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Jessica Wilcox, a junior at UF, said she bought her first pair a few months ago. She now calls them a "go to shoe" for cold days.

The wool-lined comfort may be one of the reasons girls in California also keep wearing them, Jody Turner said.

Turner, a trend analyst and founder of Culture of Future, a trend-forecasting group that has worked with Apple, Starbucks and others, said she has seen a has been a decline in Ugg-wearers in California.

Trends, she added, can be integrated into society as part of our uniform, which may be the case for Uggs.

"It has become a staple in the diet of fashion," she said. "They are practical and comfortableólanguages people don't want to get rid of."

Some say comfort may or may not be the deciding factor for many Ugg-ers.

For 18-to-24 year-olds females, clothing choices are made to fulfill a need to be in fashion more often than to be comfortable, said Michael Solomon, the author of several books on consumer behavior and a marketing professor at St. Joseph's University,

"How else would you explain the high heel?" he said.

Solomon said the need to be accepted by a group is a leading force in our decision-making processes.

"If the style happens to be comfortable," Solomon said, "so much the better."

And fashion choices can often result from group choices.

At UF, many would consider Ugg boots part of the caricature of a sorority girl. The boots are often worn over tight black leggings and a t-shirt from the groups' most recent semi-formal or recent woodser or grab-a-date.

Uggs are a very iconic part of fashion and that can make it often a "group item," Turner explained.

Still, the near $200 price for a pair may be what keeps them in wardrobes for so long.

The high price tag establishes the shoe as a "designer piece" in the mind of most consumers, said Sara Wright, a Parsons New School for Design student and Vogue intern.

"They are the luxury handbag for the middle class," she added.

They aren't going to ditch their luxury investment just because fashion has.

Wright, Turner and the students agree, a soft, sheepskin shoe that keeps you comfortable in the cold may have staying power no matter what the Anna Wintour's think.

The UGG Australia Company, who reported a $23.5 million dollar profit in 2007, is giving consumers wearable piece that were once scarce in fashion.

"People are actually looking for comfort in clothing," Wright said.

Despite the high price of a comfortable trend, Ugg boots are still indicative of the cycle that the fashion industry depends on to stay in business.

Skinny jeans, the It bag, the It shoes and even once It Ugg boots will slide their down the fashion totem pole.

The lifespan of a trend, Solomon explained, is similar to that of a "virus" or a cold.

The cycle begins with a select few who "catch it" from a fashion magazine or see it on a celebrity, he explained. These trendsetters then spread it to their immediate contacts.

Ultimately, the trend makes its way to a larger group, while simultaneously, the people who caught it first also get over it first.

And then, the process starts again.

"That's the case with Ugg boots," Solomon said.

"Even though the fashionistas in New York City are done with them, the virus still has a ways to go as it infects the mainstream population."

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