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24/08/2019 Communication Science news and articles

On the mysterious tradition of the Ugly Christmas Sweater

The (unofficial) history of how Ugly Christmas Sweaters became a ‘thing’.


Tis the season of the Ugly Christmas Sweater. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, for some bizarre reason Ugly Christmas Sweaters have been embraced by millennials as an awkward, mildly ironic representation of the Christmas spirit. They are everywhere, literally. As proof of this, just know that I am currently at the library, sitting next to a friend looking at sweaters with reindeer humping each other. She said they would make for a great gift for her brother.

In true Carrie Bradshaw fashion, I couldn’t help but wonder… when did this become a thing? Who decided it would be a great idea to ironically embrace such questionable fashion? So here I am, on a quest to understand the origins of the Ugly Christmas Sweater myth and the factors contributing to its bizarre success. I decided to turn my hopes to the Internet, where everything is found, especially random bits of useless trivia you might wanna keep up your sleeve for random conversation starters at parties.

The Eighties
So the almighty, all-knowing gods of the Internet inform me that the origin of the Ugly Chritmas Sweater trend can be traced back to around the 80’s. Of course, like all things cheesy. More specifically, the Ugly Christmas Sweaters historians individuate the character of Bill Huxtable, played by Bill Cosby, as a particularly fashion-forward character. An influencer of his time. You might be wondering, that Bill Cosby? Yes, that one. Ew. Let’s move on.

Mr. Darcy
The book of Ugly Christmas Sweaters credits 2001 as a significant year. All of a sudden Ugly Christmas Sweaters became a thing, and the world collectively decided that bad taste could be turned into an ironic fashion statement. Ah, yes, I lost you at ‘the book of Ugly Christmas Sweater’. Why yes, of course, someone wrote a book on this, and chances are historians three hundred years from now will be using that to document the absurdity of our times. But fear not, if we’re lucky the human race will go extinct before that – thanks global warming!

Now that’s the sweater of my dreams

Sarcasm aside, I am dedicated to my mission and ready to discover who or what to blame for this collective embracing of flashy designs and reindeer. So hereby I propose you a potential culprit for your uncontrollable impulse to buy low quality sweaters with LED lights at Primark: the lovable Mr. Darcy, from Bridget Jones’ diary.
Now, let me refresh your memory:

If this isn’t your first memory of an iconic Ugly Christmas Sweater, I don’t know if I want to be friends with you. With the mixture of broodiness and insecurity typical of someone about to push the very boundaries of fashion and common decency, Darcy shows up to a Christmas party wearing something not short of iconic status. Look at that deer giving major side-eye vibes. Now that’s the sweater of my dreams.

Oh, Canada (?)
Beyond giving the world the joy of maple syrup, the JBiebs and Avril Lavigne, Canada has blessed us with the ultimate consecration of the Ugly Christmas Sweater as a statement piece. Ever since 2002, the people of Vancouver have come together for the Annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Party. The one and only. Trademark included. They’re pretty serious about it, too. For those of you who are just that dedicated to the Ugly Christmas Sweater cause, here’s how you can get tickets.

Blame thrift shopping, Primark or Canada; the essence and beauty of the Ugly Christmas Sweater lays in our ability to not take ourselves too seriously, and to simply enjoy things, no matter how cheesy. So, which bizarre design will you be rocking this year?

Cover: Annie Spratt / Final editing: Tamar Hellinga

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