Eager students didn’t need to wait long for the mercury to fall and (some) leaves to turn before witnessing UT’s most loved and most reviled autumnal tradition: the return of the uggs.
But as these wooly friends make their pitter-patter migrations across campus cobblestones, activists say wearers are tiptoeing around an ugg-ly truth: they aren’t the only ones dying for these snuggly shoes.
Though to some these odd-looking sheepskin boots represent comfort and fashion, animal-rights activists say slaughtering sheep isn’t chic.
Apparently, some wearers’mdash;including ugg nut fan Pamela Anderson, until last year’mdash;were under the impression that the wool lining is merely shaven from the animals, but in fact, the process is less warm and fuzzy than they think.
The sheep are killed’mdash;though not just to make boots, as some have charged. They are slaughtered primarily for their meat. The sheepskin hides (with fleece intact) are then preserved with salt before tanneries process them.
Though credited for popularizing Uggs while on ‘Baywatch,’ Anderson spoke out against the shoes last year.
‘I’m getting rid of our Uggs,’ she wrote in her online diary. The longtime PETA supporter sheepishly donated her old shoes to its ‘Give Uggs the Boot’ campaign.
‘I feel so guilty for that craze being started around the Baywatch days. I used to wear them with my red swimsuit to keep warm ‘- never realizing that they were skin!’
And it wasn’t just Anderson who dug the Ugg. They were shoe-ins for Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement, featured three times on her influential annual ‘Favorite Things’ list (2003, 2005 and 2007). Kate Hudson wore the boots (with shorts) on the 2004 ‘Raising Helen’ movie poster.
But now, Anderson recommends other sole providers, makers like Stella McCartney or Juicy, which are more animal friendly. Anderson said she had previously thought the boots were made from wool attached to synthetic material.
‘I thought they [the sheep] were shaved kindly,’ she wrote. ‘People like to tell me all the time that I started that trend ‘- yikes!’
UT student Celeste Judge agrees.
‘I just think it’s wrong,’ the junior said. ‘Yes, they’re comfortable, but come on. Are you really going to walk around wearing dead animals on your feet just because they’re comfy or because they’re in style? Give me a break. That’s gross.’
Some people point out that a lot of shoes and purses come from dead animals. All leather comes from cowhide, for example, and few people complain.
Sherry Dibble says she sticking with her Uggs.
‘They’re amazing,’ the junior said. ‘Even when it’s warm outside, I wear them. But when it’s cold out, oh my goodness, they’re the best! They feel like slippers, just better.’
Jennifer Cintron agrees.
‘I’m from up north, where it’s totally normal and acceptable to rock Uggs,’ she said. ‘And when it’s 45 degrees here, yeah I wear them. They’re comfortable, warm and cozy. How could you not love them?’
According to Ugg-lore, wearers have always embraced the shoe’s unattractiveness, first calling them ‘Ugg’ boots because they were ugly.
In fact, Ugg is a generic term for sheepskin boots that have been made in Australia and New Zealand for almost 200 years. Many companies’mdash;and countries’mdash;are copying the look, and doing it for less money. Countless brands range from $19.99 to $100, but genuine Australian Uggs range from $90 to $200, depending on the size and style.
But Monaco said it’s not about the cost: ‘They’re unbelievably comfortable.’
Proponents say if people want a boot that’s warm in the winter but cool enough to wear in the summer, these boots are perfect.
Uggs are manufactured with genuine Australian double-faced sheepskin, preferably Australian Merino sheepskin. After slaughter, it typically takes about 10 days for the skins to be tanned and ready to be cut into panels for Ugg boots.
Not everyone who opposes Uggs has animal rights in mind. Some critics say its fashion cruelty, that the boots are pass’eacute; or just plain ugly. Others say it’s ridiculous to wear winter boots in Tampa’s sunshine, or as one Facebook group bluntly put it, ‘Do not wear Uggs in Florida, you stupid ****s.’
Another group is titled, ‘I don’t care how comfortable Uggs are, you look like a dumbass,’
But some students like Lauren Monaco swear by them: ‘I know they’re ugly,’ the junior said. ‘I just don’t care.’
Though the sheep refuse to comment, opinions among UT students are divided.
Some love them for comfort, others for style and warmth. Meanwhile, others wouldn’t be caught dead in them.