Climbing through boulders of ice and dirty snow, I frequently think about footwear, especially Uggs because everyone is wearing them. Ugg is one of the most popular brands among suburban Gen Z girls in the US and as a marketer blogging about Gen Z, I am fascinated by the Ugg brand. Ugg boots, a $100-$250 slipper boot made of sheepskin and fleece from Australia, have been trendy among tweens and teens in the US since the late 1990s, pretty long for a trend in the US.
Why and how does this very expensive, unattractive slipper boot remain a hot item among affluent youth? Trend spotters and marketers can learn a lot from Ugg. Answering these two questions will provide insights for other youth brands so that they too, can become part of a Gen Z’s daily wardrobe.
- Why are Ugg boots so popular among suburban Gen Zs?
- What can youth brands learn from the Ugg brand?
Uggs Fit Everyone. Ugg boots are popular because anyone can wear them no matter what size or shape you are, or foot you have. Oprah, Kate Middleton and other celebs wear Uggs. Owners insist their Uggs are so comfortable and easy to put on, you can wear them anywhere. 26% of American women own a pair of Uggs and buy a new pair every 2-3 years. Even toddlers wear cute little Uggs, I see them tripping all over Starbucks. Today Gen Zs hide cell phones in the leg of their Uggs: a middle school in PA banned Uggs for that reason.
Be a Part of the Popular Outfit. Gen Z girls want to wear what’s popular, so that they may become more popular. According to middle school contacts, roughly 70% of the girls in our middle school dress identically and wear Ugg boots every day. But the Ugg boots are just one piece of the Outfit. The Outfit includes Ugg boots, leggings and a North Face coat or jacket. Most girls wear the Outfit daily, and don’t dare to deviate.
Offer a High Price for Conformity. Interviews with mothers of teen girls revealed that their daughters will do most anything to fit in, “look the part”, not stand out, and wearing the Outfit makes them feel safer, more popular and less noticeable. To most mothers, it doesn’t matter that they’re ugly; the high price tag justifies the ugliness. But one mom refuses to buy her 14-year-old daughter Uggs despite constant requests. That sparked a debate about giving into conformity vs. refusing to buy for obvious reasons. I hear girls ask each other if the boots are Uggs or Fuggs and they check out the tags – pretty rough if your family simply cannot afford them or you prefer not to kill sheep for comfy footwear.
Play it Safe. Personally, I think it’s a shame girls are not expressing their individual style through footwear or wardrobe, as I’ve never been a conformist. But I do know that life in the suburbs is harder for non-conformists, especially adolescent girls. Given how hard middle school can be, dressing the part may help ease social pains. Today middle school is even harder with your every move shared on social media , so the less you stand out, the less likely you are to be caught wearing something very different than the Outfit and passed around on Instagram.
Some say Gen Zs are independent, non-conformists but based on the Ugg boots case, I would disagree. When it comes to wardrobe, many Gen Zs want to fit in and Ugg offers the cache, comfort, simplicity and conformity that is so appealing. I hope to see a new youth brand do what Ugg did but in a more modern way: create footwear that allows for expression and functionality that’s under $100 and kinder to animals.