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"baa" And Humbug To Those Laughing At My Manly Uggs
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They cost a packet, they're perfect for the Beijing winter and they're gathering dust in my cupboard. They are also soft and fluffy and therein lies the dilemma.
My prized woolen boots were bought in a moment of rashness just hours before I returned to China from a recent holiday to New Zealand.
It's all my sister's fault. Visiting Kiwi-land a few months ago she whisked me into this trendy shop under orders, she said, to buy a pair of ugg boot for her daughter Natasha in London.
Uggs are wool-lined, sheepskinugg boots and have been iconic footwear for a century. Even in the depths of winter, the lands Down Under are rarely cold but Uggs are practical accessories, worn by sheep farmers with access to the "raw materials" and airmen exposed to the cold at high altitude.
Beijing at Christmas sounded akin to the Antarctic, so although real uggs were beyond my budget, I settled for a similar, cheaper pair. The first hint of impending doom came with a shopping trip to Sanlitun. I spotted a pair of Uggs walking by, which belonged to a heavy-framed Asian man and seemed utterly incongruous. They almost went "baa baa" at me. The consensus on Internet blogs, amid plenty of politically correct postings, was that no female would rejoice if her husband/boyfriend bought one. That's it, I vowed. These ugg boots are going nowhere unless Beijing gets really cold! Just as I was prepared to lock the cupboard and throw away the key, things took a turn for the better. I told my sister of my purchase and my misgivings. This is an exact quote from her reply: "I've just spoken to Natasha and she says don't worry, all the blokes wear them over here. The only thing is, they're all flashy, young Jewish boys at uni." We're a Jewish family, by the way, so please save your e-mails. I feel entitled to use the quote without causing offense.
My China Daily colleagues were useless for my confidence when I first tried them out. Editor-at-large Ravi S. Narasimhan passed me in the corridor, glanced down, burst out laughing and carried on without breaking stride or uttering a word. Then, I spotted another pair of Uggs walking past me, this time belonging to reporter Liu Wei. "Actually they're not real Uggs," she confessed. "They're imitation Uggs but they're good imitations. I would never buy a pair of bad imitations." Turns out even the fake market has its own hierarchy. They looked splendid, which did nothing for their apparent value as a unisex item. Fellow Aussie Patrick Whiteley was no help either. "Wear them," he said. "They're really trendy here in Beijing." "Yeah but how many men do you know wearing them?" I asked sheepishly. "Um, none," he admitted.
My brittle ego was finally boosted by Wikipedia, which for the purposes of this article is the font of all knowledge. "Ugg boots have again grown in popularity," it declared, "with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio being spotted in them." Well if they're good enough for a Hollywood heartthrob, that's good enough for me.
They'll be coming out of the cupboard again very soon. But, only if Beijing gets really cold.
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