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The Cult of Ugly Footwear

The Cult of Ugly Footwear
February 9, 2022

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I remember vividly when UGG boots first came on the scene in high school. The consensus was consistent–the tan suede boots were hideous–but their contrarian look didn’t stop them from becoming the smash footwear choice of my fellow classmates. What started as a niche Australian brand for surfers seeking to warm up after a morning session became the trend du jour of 15-year-old girls in low-rise jeans and 80-degree weather. Most surprisingly, while the low-rise jeans, velour tracksuits, and other Y2K throwbacks are becoming cool again, UGG boots never really became uncool.

                                           Photo cred: Bloomberg Businessweek
It turns out the footwear brand that owns UGG boots has seen repeated similar successes, using a niche brand identity and core product to push the limit of ugly footwear. Deckers Outdoor Corp has spent years acquiring and developing brands with distinct looks and practical purposes that somehow consistently translate to fashion crowds and cool kids. Hokas, the beloved running shoe that provides a cloud-like arch support and neon color patterns bordering on obnoxious, have become popular with fashion crowds. Teva’s, created by a river guide who added a velcro wristwatch to his flip flops, are now sold in rainbow colors and platform heels, at Urban Outfitters and Nordstrom’s stores across the country.

The company believes the formula to its staying power is to continuously innovate with a ‘no idea too ugly’ mentality. Collaborations with designers and an adoption of uglycore principles at other footwear brands have taken root. Kanye West’s Yeezys and chef-favorite Crocs are notoriously ugly, too.

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