Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Scoop on Uggs


We got our holiday prezzie from our CFO and Chairman of the Board early this year and we LOVE it. We got a pair of Ugg Ultra Tall Boots in Chocolate (yep, the ones in the image above). They're amazing!

It was a bit of an impulse -- and, it turns out a very fortuitous buy -- we were at the Marina del Rey Sports Chalet and checked out their large selection of Uggs.

For those of you who reside in places where the weather is actually and technically cold, you should know that everyone (or seemingly everyone) in Southern California wears Uggs, or at least some facsimile of them (we're talking about actual sheepskin-shearling boots, not the faux-suede and faux-fur lining boots you see everywhere from $12.99 at Tuesday Morning to $99 at DSW).

In other words, it's not crazy that we were getting our third pair of Uggs (but, hey, that's in the last decade!). And as we're maturing, we're feeling the bitter bite of the cold more sharply, so throwing on a pair of Uggs over our (always) bare feet keeps us cozy.

At any rate, like any new purchase, we combed the internet, looking to assure that we got a good deal. At the SC, there were two pair of the Ugg New Zealand [pay attention to this part, it will be important later]-made Ultra Talls in Chocolate remaining, one in a size 5 (ours!) and one in a size 9 (some other lucky person's!). They were marked down to $119, $80 off their original price.

As we were debating over our choice, a salesperson walked by and said, to us, in an aside, "Those are really good ones, the ones that came out last year are a lot better made than the ones we got this year, and they'll last a lot longer."

This got us thinking, so we walked around the checked out the rest of the stock -- and most of the Uggs (authentic, of course) were now made in China. The salesperson noted the easy way to tell if you're looking at boxes of Uggs is by the label. The "classic" Uggs, plain suede with shearling lining are almost all now made in China. You most commonly see this style in bone, tan, black and brown and now come in heights ranging from a super short ankle boot to the Ultra Talls.

The newer (and more fully stocked) Ultra Tall Uggs were, upon inspection, still made in New Zealand (that's a tip, btw, if you want a quality pair, it appears that the more chunky solid soled-versions are made by Kiwis). But those boots retail, at both SC and online at Zappos, for $225.

More internet research seemed to pull up a bunch of sites selling "Uggs" for what appeared to half price. In a time when stores are putting up signs that brag "We Have Uggs!" it seems curious that a retailer is able to sell them at such a reduced rate. As we examined the site further, we realized that all items to be returned had to be "shipped back" to China.

Ah, they were knock-offs! How could they then, be selling them not as Ugg like but claiming authenticity? A web search came across several similar sites (an example, the one we initially found, can be seen at these are not authentic).

This got us thinking -- now that Uggs are actually made in China (well, most of their most popular styles, at least), were these knock-off sellers offering shearling boots from an actual Ugg manufacturer or were they of lesser quality? We don't really know, but anyone who will make this investment (and for us, a pair of Uggs are an investment), should take all this into consideration.

That said, it seemed unfair to consumers who think they are getting the real thing when they're not. If the website sells only Uggs and shipping is international and there's a not of the issue of customs' payment (often they'll absorb the cost and mention it), you're likely to be getting a pair of fakes. But the simplest way of determining if you're getting a real or faux pair is if the prices seem outrageously low.

Uggs are in heavy demand, period. And in a time (like now) when stock is depleted (there won't be many who'll get the amazing deal we did last Sunday), there are people who buy them up and sell them on Ebay for an even more inflated price than the actual retail price. Retailers are getting the highest suggested retail price, and some (the stores with a very large stock, you'll often find) even bump the prices further up. That means, they are not liquidating them by any means.

It really does boil down to the old truism: "if it sounds like too good of a deal, it probably isn't."

If you don't care if they are not authentic Uggs, and would like to pay less, instead of buying a pair of sent-from China knock-offs that claim to be Uggs, consider other brands that sell actual shearling boots. Off the top of our heads, we can think of Bear Paw and Minnetonka.

In trolling Zappos, it appears that Fitzwell, Lugz and Gabriella Rocha make an actual shearling-lined boot (at a lower price point than authentic Uggs).

The key is to look for quality inside and outside the boot. They'll last longer, look nicer longer, and will be more comfortable (removable real-shearling insoles can be washed and the nap revived by brushing if they become flattened; faux cannot).

Boots that look real but aren't (your first clue will be the "all man-made materials adhesive tag") won't be of the same quality caliber as our New Zealand-made Uggs Ultra Talls, but at least you're not getting the all-over-the-malls faux suede lined with man-made/faux fur.

Get fakeys, and you'll not only get minimal wear from them, but they're likely to grunge-out quickly and (this isn't pretty, but it's true) they'll develop an odor which will have you Fabreez-ing them frequently. They may last you a season, but not even that, if you live in significantly wet or snowy weather.

Brands that can feature real suede outside, but faux-fur linings include Steve Madden and Rocket Dog -- there may be exceptions within these brands, but you probably want to check carefully. There are also plenty of nice boots (La Candienne comes to mind) of similar styling that are a good deal more expensive, than even the authentic Uggs.

That said, we shot off a quick email to Uggs Australia about the site claiming to sell authentic Uggs that were so obviously not.

We got the following response today:


Thank you for your email. In regards to your inquiry we do have a department that is continually working on getting fraudulent websites shut down, however since this process involves many facets of our company as well as a legal department it is very time consuming. Please report any fraudulent sites you may come across to the following email address so that we can work on getting them shut down: If you have any further questions or concerns please feel free to contact us back either via email or by phone at 1-888-432-8530.

The email was from a rep of the Deckers Outdoor Corporation, of which Ugg falls under.

As we always suggest at BeansTalk, buy smart. Do a little research and be tenacious. You might get lucky in your quest for Uggs. We did!