The Ugly Christmas Sweater History

It’s that time of year to break out the kindling and heat up the fire place. So warm it up, grab something to eat and drink, and get comfortable as I tell you the story of the ugly Christmas sweater.

Nowadays this winter fashion fad is pervasive. You can pick up one of these “ugly sweaters” at any major store. It used to be that you would have to hunt for a sweater like this, which was part of the fun. You would get a vintage sweater from a family member’s closet, or sort through the thrift store, and show it off at the holiday party. But as with everything else, this small tradition for some has become a commercial money maker for big fashion.

festivus sweater

It may seem like a recent fad, and it is. The Ugly Christmas Sweater Part Book: The Definitive Guide to Getting Your Ugly On (what a title), states that there was a noticeable increase in these types of parties around 2001. It’s believed that it started in Vancouver, Canada, but it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint the exact moment the ugly Christmas sweater party came into being.

Within these past few years, brands like H&M, and retailers like Target and Nordstrom are cashing in on the craze with their own purposefully made “ugly sweaters”. Meanwhile, thrift stores like Goodwill are making bank on hipsters, moms, and office workers looking to make a splash at their holiday party with a true ugly sweater.

Ugly Christmas sweaters aren’t just an American thing. The Christmas jumper (as their called in England) is also a hit.

So the question is: Why are they so darn popular? There are a few reasons I can think of. One is our love of holidays and nostalgia. Who doesn’t enjoy popping in one of the older Christmas movies like Frosty the Snowman and remembering how Christmas was as a kid. These sweaters are throwbacks to an earlier time in our lives and many enjoy reminiscing on that.

A second reason is that many of us enjoy dressing up and being ironic. We know these sweaters are ugly…that’s the point! We all wear them to the party and remark on how ugly each others’ is. It’s fun to wear something like that when everyone else is wearing one too.

Another reason could be that people in the US just love clothes and trends. Something too trendy, like suspenders, has yet to catch on because too few people wear them, and many of us aren’t comfortable being that far on the fringes of fashion. But once you start catching coworkers, the guy on the bus, or your best friend wearing something trendy, it soon becomes mainstream and you have to have it. Now that ugly Christmas sweaters are popping up in places like Target, they are now mainstream and therefore ok to wear out. Plus, you don’t want to be the only one at the ugly Christmas sweater party without one!

But be careful on your selection. Those shopping last minute will end up with a store-bought sweater that many others at the party may have. If you really want to stand out, hit up your friends and family members to see if anyone has a real vintage sweater you can borrow. If not, it’s time to stop by the thrift store and start hunting.

Now don that ugly Christmas sweater with pride, it’s the only time of year you can wear it.


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