The American Christmas Tradition of the Ugly Sweater

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The uglier the better!

One of the most fun things about the holiday season is getting dressed up for the various holiday parties. It’s a lot of fun to get dressed up in your finest, hopefully with some sequins and sparkles. However, if you turn up wearing one of those iconic “ugly” Christmas sweaters, complete with a cheesy phrase or some old-fashioned embroidery, it can be even more entertaining. Find the ideal awful knit at a thrift store, design your own, or go online for one with a festive slogan. Bonus points for using Christmas garlands and blinking lights!

Just like giving dad a putrid necktie on Father’s Day went from being a bad joke to a hallowed tradition, gifting someone with a hideous yarn sweater has gone from something Aunt Mildred imposed on the family to an uproarious contest. To see who can find and present the tackiest winter apparel possible. 

It all started with Clark Griswold

The ugly Christmas sweater did not become popular with the American public until the 1980s. The transformation occurred as a result of pop culture and comedies. Wacky dad figures like Clark Griswold from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” played by Chevy Chase, turn the holiday sweater into an unattractive but amusing statement of cheer.

Although sweaters with snowflake patterns weren’t considered cool then, many still wore them to business parties and on Christmas Day because they exuded the holiday spirit. Every year during the holiday shopping season, fast-fashion companies like Topshop and high-end merchants like Nordstrom begin stocking their stores and websites with garish designs.

The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army and vintage clothing businesses were quick to jump on the fad by increasing their inventories of dancing Santa pullovers and fuzzy snowman pullovers. Even the fashion set embraced the movement. In 2007, Stella McCartney came up with an alpine sweater with a polar bear pattern. After that, Givenchy debuted in 2010, and Dolce & Gabbana debuted the year after that. The Christmas Ugly Sweater irony is lost outside the United States. Britons regularly wear gaudy winter sweaters with complete seriousness. So do the Germans and the Russians. 

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Abbie M

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