Should we join the ugly Christmas sweater phenomenon? And why do people even call them “ugly”? Growing up in the South, there were only people who wore festive Christmas sweaters and those who didn’t. Now they are like a trend to make money and then throw it away. What happened? — Kristen, Charleston, SC
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but so is the opposite. One person’s ugly Christmas sweater might be another’s charming nod to the holiday season.
It’s also true that a better word for the spectacle you’re referring to might be “kitschy holiday sweater” or “new holiday sweater” since (1) such knitwear is no longer limited to Christmas and there are now all kinds of creative versions of the ugly Hanukkah sweater; and (2) most designs seem calculated to outdo each other in ironic garishness for the sole purpose of making the viewer laugh.
This is why the ugly Christmas sweater (for lack of a better term) has become such a staple for comedians, including Chevy Chase in the 1989 film “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and Jimmy Fallon, who plays an annual “12 Days of Christmas Sweaters” organizes. ” giveaway on “The Tonight Show.”
Laughter, of course, is a gift to all of us, as long as we laugh at someone instead of at him. And while we can debate the moral implications of equating ugliness and humor (and frankly, what we really mean by “ugly Christmas sweater” is “bad taste” Christmas sweater, taste is an entirely subjective concept), which is not up for debate. is that all of this has helped turn what was once a softly cheesy piece of mid-century knitwear known as a “jingle bell sweater” into a pop culture trend.
There are ugly Christmas sweater parties (and guides on how to hold them). Ugly Christmas sweater office matches. (The Times has one of these — or did it before Covid.) Coloring books for ugly Christmas sweaters. Ugly Christmas Sweater Children’s Books. Also, of course, all kinds of sites and sellers that specialize in ugly Christmas sweaters. Amazon alone sells more than 50 different ones.
That brings up the fact that there is a great abundance of ugly Christmas sweaters. According to Hubbub, an environmental organization based in Britain, there are 65 million in Britain alone. In addition, one in three people under the age of 35 buy an ugly Christmas sweater every year, and two in five are only worn once during the season. And because the sweaters are often made of acrylic and decorated with all kinds of crazy gadgets, up to 95 percent of them contain plastic, which means they can’t be recycled.
Those aren’t great numbers. Still, there’s a good chance that the ugly Christmas sweater is here to stay, a bit like the fruitcake that nobody likes, and the family game Monopoly that often ends in tears. The question is how to make the most of it.
And the answer is simple: avoid the industrial complex of the ugly Christmas sweater and do it yourself. Woolmark does indeed offer free DIY patterns and appliqués so people can embellish what they already have and then de-jazz it, reducing waste. Or have an ugly Christmas sweater swap party and keep what your friends have in circulation.
At the very least, use the spectacle as an excuse to explore the resale or rental market. Then you get the last laugh.
Your style questions, answered
Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa answers a reader’s fashion-related question, which you can send her anytime via e-mail or Twitter. Questions have been edited and compressed.