UGG is the trendiest brand of comfortable winter footwear in the world. But where are UGGs made, and what is the history of this brand?
Here is a buyer’s FAQ guide written by a long-term customer and fan of the UGG brand (I’ve been wearing UGGs for over 10 years!).
Where Are UGGs Made?
UGG boots are synonymous with surf culture in Australia and Southern California. However, these now-fashionable sheepskin boots are not actually made down under nor in the US!
Outside of Australia and New Zealand, UGGs are manufactured by Deckers Outdoor Corporation – a company based in the US with their manufacturing based in China and Vietnam.
Here’s a photo of the label inside my own pair of UGGs, showing they are made in Vietnam:
UGG boots were certainly not invented by this US corporation. People were referring to this style of sheepskin boot as “uggs” long before they were trademarked.
“Uggs” is actually an Aussie term for handmade sheepskin boots, like the ones that sheep shearers wore way back in the 1920’s in rural Australia.
Blue Mountain Ugg Boots, a company in New South Wales, has been manufacturing these iconic boots since the 1930’s. There are also many other artisanal manufacturers of these boots in Australia and New Zealand.
Australian surfers, like Shane Stedman, popularized the boots among surfers in the 1970’s. Soon a manufacturer in Western Australia, Country Leather, started marketing and distributing their sheepskin boots outside of Australia.
The UGG brand, as most people around the world know it today, originated in Southern California. Aussie surfer, Brian Smith, and Doug Jensen imported Australian ugg boots to the US during the 1970’s. In 1985 they registered and trademarked the boots in the US, and they officially became known as UGG boots.
During the 1980’s and 90’s, UGG boots gained popularity around the world. They were advertised in surfer magazines and became a symbol of SoCal lifestyle. They became trendy in US fashion in the 1990’s, and became a global trend during the 2000’s.
In 1995, Brian Smith sold UGG Holdings to Deckers Outdoor Corporation for something to the tune of 14 million dollars. Since then, UGGs manufacturing has moved to China to keep up with the rapidly growing demand for these high fashion boots.
How Are UGGs Made?
Regardless of whether your UGGs come from Australia, China or Vietnam, they are made in a fairly similar way.
UGG boots are made using sheepskins that are a by-product of the meat industry. The skins remain intact with their fleece attached. They are tanned into leather and the boots are manufactured with the fleece on the inside. The soles are synthetic, made from ethylene-vinyl acetate.
Once the sheepskin is tanned, and in some cases, dyed, it is cut into the panels required to make UGG footwear. Manufacturers hand-stitch the boots using industrial sewing machines.
The soles are the last component to be added. UGG uses high-quality, heavy-duty stitching to ensure that the boots are water-resistant and last for a long time.
From an ethical point of view, it is important to note that sheep are not actually killed for the purpose of making UGGs. UGG boots are only made from sheepskins that come from sheep that were slaughtered for meat. They are not made from shorn virgin wool.
UGG the brand is constantly looking at ways to make its products more sustainable and appeal to customers who live a plant-based lifestyle. They have committed to increasing their use of regenerated, renewable, repurposed, and recycled materials and fibers by 35% by 2027.
In 2021, UGG launched their Plant Power Collection that features footwear made from newly developed, more sustainable materials.
UGGplush™ is a brand-new, sustainable alternative to shearling that combines TENCEL™ Lyocell (a fluffy material made from wood pulp) with a recycled PET backing. Not only are these new UGGs plant-based, but they contain plastic from recycled plastic bottles (source).
Compared to the original sheepskin UGG boots, the new boots require less energy and water to produce. The production emits less carbon dioxide compared to traditional virgin wool, and they support the development of other green textiles.
Plant-based UGG boots have soles made from SUGARSOLE™ – a renewable material made from sugarcane extract. It is a more sustainable alternative to rubber or petroleum-based materials.
The new designs incorporate recycled PET in an effort to keep plastic bottles out of the world’s landfills. With their new Plant Power Collection, 350000 plastic bottles have been recycled – that means that each shoe contains two or three plastic bottles worth of recycled plastic.
Who Owns UGGs?
The brand UGG is owned by Deckers Outdoor Corporation. They bought the company in 1995 from Aussie surfer, Brian Smith for $14.6 million. Deckers holds registrations for the UGG trademark in over 130 different countries, including the US and China.
UGG was founded in 1978 by Smith and Doug Jensen while they were living in California. In 1979 Jensen sold his shares in the company to Smith, who trademarked and grew the brand until he sold it in 1995.
The trademark was disputed during the 1970’s and 80’s because in Australia, another surfer, Shane Steadman, registered and trademarked UGH boots with the Australian Trademark Registry.
Because Uggs are considered a style of sheepskin boot in Australia and New Zealand, rather than a brand, Steadman argued that Deckers should not be allowed to monopolize the market for sheepskin boots.
However, today UGG (owned by Deckers) dominates the market for sheepskin boots. Combined, all Australian manufacturers of sheepskin boots only make up around 5% of the global market.
When Did UGGs Come Out?
The history of ugg-style sheepskin boots is complicated because the style of footwear existed long before the brand UGG.
During the 1920’s, sheep shearers in rural Australia started wearing boots made of shearling because the lanolin from sheepskin caused other types of leather boots to rot. These boots were called uggs by the locals, but what we know as UGG brand boots only came about in the 1970’s.
In 1933 the commercial production of uggs was by Blue Mountains Ugg Boots in New South Wales. Mortels Sheepskin Factory began manufacturing ugg-style boots in 1958. A Perth-based company, Uggs-N-Ruggs, also made similar boots since the late 1970’s.
UGG, the brand, only trademarked their sheepskin boots in the US in 1987. Before then, people in California had been buying their ugg boots from a company in Australia called UGH Boots, which was registered in 1971.
When Did UGGs Become Popular?
UGGs became popular as a luxury footwear brand in the early 2000’s. Before this, they were mainly worn by surfers and sheep shearers as utilitarian boots.
UGG boots gained popularity amongst surfers in Australia and Southern California in the 1970’s, but it wasn’t until 1994, when they were worn by the entire US Olympic Team for the Winter Games in Lillehammer, that they gained international recognition.
In 2003, the iconic boots appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, which sparked their popularity amongst Hollywood celebrities. Once stars like Blake Lively, Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Kate Upton, and the always in vogue, Sarah Jessica Parker, were seen in UGG boots, everyone wanted a pair.
Subsequently, UGG the brand has collaborated with designer labels like Jimmy Choo and Swarovski to create luxury versions of the once-humble sheepskin boot.
Are UGGs Made In China?
When investing in a pair of these boots, you may be concerned about mistakenly buying a lower quality, counterfeit item from China. However, trademarked UGG boots are all made in China or Vietnam. The quality of the footwear is nothing to worry about.
Outside Australia and New Zealand, UGGs are made in China and Vietnam. UGG sources their sheepskin from two tanning facilities in China (which source the skins from the UK and Australia originally).
Unless the boots you are buying specifically state that they are made in Australia or New Zealand, they are most likely manufactured in China or Vietnam.
Genuine UGG brand boots are manufactured in China or Vietnam because that is where the parent company, Deckers Outdoor Corporation, has outsourced their production to.
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Lorna is a footwear geek and the founder of Wearably Weird. She created a YouTube channel in 2021 for fellow footwear fanatics, dedicated to detail-rich footwear reviews and info. She has a fashion media qualification (awarded in 2011).