A young woman models a pair of knee-length ugg boots at the beach in 1971

Ugg boots: birth of an Aussie fashion icon

Surfer trademarked winter boots in 1968
 Tara Marynowsky

The demand for lambskin ‘Ugg’ boots is ‘causing a mini-revolution in the young fashion world’, according to this classic newsreel from 1971. Narrator Kevin Golsby is talking about Ugg boots or Uggs, long before the winter boots were a must-have accessory for celebrity fashionistas and starlets. ‘We called them Uggs because they were ugly’, says Shane Stedman today. He popularised them in Australia and is filmed for the newsreel.

The newsreel footage from the NFSA collection shows a young Stedman and his workers at Keith Pardon’s factory in Botany, New South Wales where the boots were manufactured. We see workers lay out and cut lamb skins before they are sewn together with soles glued in place. At the time 1500 pairs were sold each week.

Surfboard maker Shane Stedman manufactures Ugg boots, 1971. NFSA title: 126086

‘Others were making them too’, Stedman says now. ‘Back then there would be a bloke on the side of the road selling them.’ This led him to register the trademark in 1968. Later on, he sold UGH to Deckers, ‘they’ve been great, they ring me up now and then for advice’. Stedman still receives three pairs of Ugg boots a year from Deckers and attests that the boots have improved over the years – ‘they didn’t used to have soles, so when they got wet they stank!’.

Making Uggs is just one part of Stedman’s legendary career as surfer, surfing competition compere, surfboard designer and shaper, and now sunscreen maker. He first started making his ‘Shane’ surfboards in 1963 out of his mum’s garage - a tin shed with no electricity on the northern beaches of NSW. The business is still operating today.

On seeing the newsreel today, Stedman says he has good memories and that his son, pro-surfer Luke Stedman, was amazed to see how much hair his dad had back in the day. Shane reflects on his career, saying ‘it’s been a fun ride, I’ve had such a good time, such a buzz’. At the end of our telephone conversation I ask if he still wears Uggs and he says he’s ‘got a pair on right now’.