Swag suites are sometimes seen as the scourge of Sundance, taking attention away from the films, and adding an air of privilege to what should be a celebration of people who make movies for absolutely no money. But this year, they have been a public good (VIP public, that is), providing refuge for silly actors whose packing lists must have been written while their brains baked in the Los Angeles sun, and who found themselves sloshing through giant slush puddles in very insensible footwear.
To an onslaught of unprepared wet-footed celebrities, boot gifters Timberland and Sorel emerged as heroes. On one blizzard-like day, the rush on Sorels was so intense that the boot brand had to install a bouncer and rope off its section of the gifting space it shared with Vevo and Fresh for crowd control. “It’s been so nonstop crazy, I just had to take a break to defuse,” said a frazzled Sorel rep. While some stars had boots delivered to their hotels upon arrival at Park City, many stumbled into the footwear suite with frozen, wet toes and destroyed “California boots” (otherwise known as sneakers), desperate for help. Isla Fisher, here for Bachelorette, showed up an hour before it opened, soaking wet in suede booties. Will Forte had actually had boots delivered to his hotel room, but had somehow ventured out in tennis shoes and was so desperately cold he had to get a second pair of boots. “We had so many people calling us up and saying, ‘We hear you have boots: Help us!’” said a Sorel rep. “No one from L.A. anticipates that it’s going to be this cold and wet. It’s not like you can put on Uggs and walk down the street.” (And in a Tiny Tim moment, the rep took pity on at least one sad non-celebrity girl who’d come in with the heel of her boots patched with packing tape.)
Just down the street in the Main Street boutique Mary Jane’s, Timberland was tending to Caroline Lagerfelt (aka CeCe from Gossip Girl), who traded freezing wet dress shoes for knee-high, hot-pink waterproof cocoons. (Take a minute to imagine Serena’s grandma in hot-pink puffy boots.) She was so grateful, she stopped by the next day to dispense hugs and show off her dry feet. “People just didn’t know how to dress for the cold,” said a Timberland rep. “But it worked out for us, and I think they were happy that we could give them something waterproof, that also looked cool to walk around town in.” (Utilitarian and attractive? Sales pitch done and done.) Other unprepared dressers spotted at Timberland included Jesse Williams from Grey’s Anatomy; Lil Jon, who had no winter gear, given that he was coming from Louisiana; and Kevin Sorbo, who walked into the room and announced, “I’m Kevin Sorbo.”
All in all, this mass giveaway had a very conflicting effect on the stars: It gave them free stuff (hooray!) but made A- and D-listers alike all look the same (horrors!). Perhaps that will inspire today’s celebrities to finally learn how to read a weather report.