Christmas is considered the most wonderful time of the year for millions of people around the world. One of the not-so-wonderful gifts kids and teenagers fear opening is clothes, especially when their wish lists are full of cool gadgets and collectibles. However, ugly Christmas sweaters have broken boundaries as a fashionable gift for children and adults alike. Taking on a life of its own and transforming the dreaded expectation of receiving clothes, the surprising popularity of ugly Christmas sweaters has endured a merry transformation since its debut.
Origins of Ugly Christmas Sweaters
Though ugly Christmas sweaters have undergone a resurgence in the 21st century, its origins date to the 1950s. Originally coined “Jingle Bell Sweaters,” long-sleeved sweaters were typically adorned with the usual Christmas symbols – snowmen, Santa, angels, snowflakes, jingle bells, etc. Sweaters, like ties, knit caps, or gloves, were a natural extension of expressing the Christmas season through fashion. Usually knitted with muted colors and subtle patterns, the garments complemented the refined post-World War two era look.
Sweaters, Christmas-related or not, remained relatively composed in style until audacious designs came onto the scene on the 1980s sitcom “The Cosby Show.” Cliff Huxtable, played by Bill Cosby, was a renowned obstetrician and loving family man whose wardrobe frequently included a wooly pullover with dubious colors and clashing patterns. Despite his outfits catching on with audiences over time, sweaters as gifts were about as hip as receiving socks.
As the millennium arrived, ugly Christmas sweaters became a tradition in Vancouver, Canada in 2002. To celebrate the feel-good and cheerful nature of the holiday season, Chris Boyd and John Birch held the first-ever ugly Christmas sweater party. The required attire was an ugly sweater. The uglier, the better. The guests in attendance, almost 1,000 people in total, embraced the idea of wearing the boldest and most colorful garments imaginable. The idea gave ugly Christmas sweaters a fresh and younger reputation for nice boys and girls of all ages that eventually caught on through word-of-mouth.
Gaudy sweaters became further cemented with the general public when Italian designer Riccardo Tisci with Givenchy released a series of sweaters in 2010. His concept was outlandish yet reasonably fashionable. After becoming a hit on the runway with multiple designers, retailers such as H&M and Macy’s began releasing their own lines. The subsequent effect for customers to buy a broader array of Christmas sweaters snowballed.
Iconic Ugly Christmas Sweaters
Television isn’t the sole form of pop culture that played a significant role in making the so-ugly-it’s-beautiful-sweaters trendy. Film and celebrities have also kept ugly Christmas sweaters on the map.
In 1989, comedian Chevy Chase starred in the classic Christmas flick “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” The character’s attire of subtle sweaters and festive ties weren’t too outlandish, but the story’s setting and the film’s evolving acclaim left an impression on both moviegoers and Christmas lovers.
The most iconic movie scene involving an ugly Christmas sweater belongs to “Bridget Jones’s Diary”, a charming comedy that puts a modern twist on Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” Bridget Jones, played by Renee Zellweger, is visiting her family for the holidays where her mom has planned to set her up with a childhood friend Mark Darcy, played by Colin Firth. His ugly green Christmas sweater featuring a massive reindeer complete with fuzzy pompoms and googly eyes acts as a juxtaposition of his pride and questionable fashion sense. During an embarrassing encounter with the refined lawyer, Darcy’s disrespectful behavior towards Bridget creates an unforgettable introduction for the character and their subsequent will-they-or-won’t-they relationship.
Other notable Christmas sweaters in movies also include “The Santa Clause” series, “How The Grinch Stole Christmas,” “Surviving Christmas,” and “Fred Claus.”
Additionally, celebrities join the holiday fun by wearing an ugly Christmas sweater on a talk show or social media. From singer Carrie Underwood to actor Matt Damon, an ugly Christmas sweater is a quirky way for a famous figure to highlight their sense of humor. Their influence with fans adds to the sweater’s ongoing legacy.
Ugly Christmas Sweaters Today
Today, the modern design for ugly Christmas sweaters expands beyond winter. Instead of the original knitted style utilized in the 20th Century, most manufacturers recreate graphics in argyle or faux stitched patterns printed on cotton or polyester. The accessibility of any design on breathable fabric offers customers more variety than they’ve ever had before. Additionally, ugly Christmas sweater-costumes also serve as inspiration for crafters attending parties and entering contests that put their DIY skills to the test.
Although the holiday season remains the most common time to exchange and don sweaters, ugly Christmas sweaters are a worldwide phenomenon for casual wear all year long. From horror movies and mainstream catchphrases to fictional characters and video games, the sky is the limit for what Christmas lovers want to wear. These sweaters, even if they don’t strictly resemble old-fashioned traditions, still evoke enough similarities to be considered Christmas-related.
From classic sweaters in the 20th Century to iconic moments in pop culture, ugly Christmas sweaters have made an impact in entertainment and fashion. Not only have they become a year-round staple, but they remain a longstanding trend that doesn’t exhibit any signs of slowing down.
Browse our catalog and take a look at our various ugly Christmas sweater options. You can access our entire lineup on our website. We have great options for both men and women. So feel free to browse and if you like what you see, your sweater is a quick add away from being yours!