Home' Scoop : Scoop 59 Autumn 2012 Contents 36 SCOOP AUTUMN 2012
Two girls come out of the
Erotica Boutique Bizarre clutching small, jet-
black string bags. They lock elbows, giggle in a
guttural German way and head west down the
Reeperbahn. Who knows what frilly, lacy, racy
nothings are in those bags, but their footwear is
very familiar. They’re wearing uggs.
Excuse my languag e. Here in Hamburg,
not far from where the first incarnation of the
Beatles sweated and rocked, the word ‘ug g’ is
verboten. It’s a registered trademark of UGG®
Australia, the brand owned by the American
company Deckers, who make the boots in China.
Outside of Australia and New Zealand, you can’t
call an ugg an ugg.
I grew up in the Perth Hills which, in the
eighties, was definitely bogan country. Ug g
boots were required household footwear in the
suburban enclaves of Lesmurdie, K alamunda
and Walliston. But in Hamburg, where the
Reeperbahn has been my ’hood for nearly a
decade, our iconic bogan slipper has become
the winter footwear of choice for the fashion
conscious and upwardly mobile.
A pair of UGG®s goes for around $300. The
rival Emu brand costs about the same. You find
these boots for sale in the fancy boutiques on
Neuer Wall, next to flagship stores of Bulg ari,
Cartier and so on. Cheap knockoffs are available
for about $30. All the girls are wearing sheepskin
boots, and not just in Hamburg, but across the
European continent: in snow, slush, driving
rain and while neg otiating soggy, leaf-strewn
boulevards of sex shops and clubs like the
Reeperbahn. Women wear them to work and
tweens to school.
So this boot – once so derided, so locked
into concepts of status, disposable income
and position on the societal food chain – is
what Australia has given the world. The
Driza-Bone never caught on here, Vegemite
gets spat out, most locals think Nicole Kidman
is American, and Fosters beer is actually a
Hamburg beer in a Fosters bottle. But the ug g
(so sue me, Deckers) has gone overseas and
completely reinvented itself.
A confession: I did the same. One of my
reasons for leaving Perth in 1997 was escape.
It meant I could leave everything behind and
start over. I can tell Germans I was born in
Kalamunda and no judg ements g et made. In
fact, they find it incredibly exotic and interesting.
I can change the narrative of my own life and
go through a process of reinvention, like a
discarded, bacteria-riddled boot transforming
into a three-figure item of high fashion.
That was great, for a while. There’s no
changing how or who I am, in the same way that
all the rebranding in the world will not change the
ugg. An ugg is an ugg. And as the locals slip and
slide in their highly prized Aussie footwear, I’m
happy to be here, in this place, standing on the
Reeperbahn, listening to the toots of ships and
speculating on the contents of jet-black string
bags. I’m happy to be on the other side of the
world and to be reminded of my roots. S
Campbell Jeffer ys’ latest book is True Blue
Tu c k e r (Rippple Books).
words Campbell Jefferys
Aussie culture is alive
and well on the streets of
Hamburg, as the Germans
embrace their inner bogan
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