Saturday, November 13, 2004

Remember the Persian Gulf War?

I do, every time I look at my UGG Australian sheepskin boots.

In 1990, Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait, renewing the claim that Kuwait was historically part of Iraq and asserting that Kuwaiti oil drilling on the border was tapping into Iraqi oil fields. In January 1991 the US came to the defense of Kuwait, putting us into our first international military conflict since Vietnam. The US went into shock, one of the effects of which was that commerce ground to a halt. Shopping, dining out--doing anything but sitting glued to TV and radio--was unpatriotic.

It was during the first week of the war that a friend and I enjoyed dinner at Seattle's renowned Le Gourmand--as the only party of the evening. And during that same week that I discovered how panicked merchants get if they don't have any customers.

I'd never seen UGGs before, but they looked warm and cozy up there on the shelf at the funky shoe store in the University District. My old Seattle bungalow was cold and drafty, and sheepskin boots seemed the solution. The price--$120--was too much for me in those days, so I asked if they'd take $89. The store manager, who hadn't had a sale all week, agreed, and I went off with the boots.

The UGGs became an integral part of my at-home identity. I wore them after work with sweats, and I wore them in the morning with my bathrobe. Since my feet are always cold, I wore them from September to June every year.

One cold, relentlessly rainy night in February, my cat Betaille rushed in the cat door carring a huge, struggling rat. She dropped the rat in my bedroom, and it leaped into one of the UGG boots. Betaille immediately shoved a paw in after it. Terrified she'd be bitten, I tossed her out of the room. In the chaos, the UGG fell over, but the rat remained inside. There was no way to get the rat out of the house without tossing the boot, too. So I closed the boot with kitchen tongs and, opening the back door, hurled the rodent-stuffed footwear out into the deluge. Two days later, when the rain stopped, I went out to get the sodden boot. Fortunately, the rat had departed. But what had it left in the boot? I brought the boot in and soaked it (and its mate) in Woolite in the sink to eradicate any remaining rodentia. Do you know how much water sheepskin can absorb? It took many, many rinses to get the soap out. I dried the boots in a warm room, and they were as good as new.

Last year those UGGs entered their 13th season of wear. They'd been washed a few times, and the sheepskin was getting a bit matted. The soles were wearing down, getting stiff, and didn't provide much traction any more. So I decided it was time for a replacement pair.

That's when I discovered, to my horror, that in between wars my UGGs had become celebrity footwear wear at ski resorts and at the beach. They now came in baby blue, pink, and every color imaginable. And there was a growing backlash against LA bimbos who went trotting around in UGGs and mini-skirts: apparently, they are known as "UGG sluts." As a result of all this fuss, UGGs were selling at full price, or at least they would have been selling at full price if there were any. The black ones I wanted were backordered for a year on the Nordstrom website. Imitation UGGs were springing up all over eBay. It was just too discouraging.

By this fall the industrious Aussies had been able to dye up plenty of sheepskins, and I was able to snag a pair of real UGGs on eBay for $90 plus shipping. They are identical to, and just as gorgeous as, my first pair.

The problem now? It's hard to put that old pair into the Goodwill bag. Those boots know more about the past 14 years of my life than even my best friend does.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:21 PM

    So, did you get the mini-skirt too?