A comfy historical past of the ugly Christmas sweater

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Written by Marianna Cerini, CNN

Transfer over twinkling fir timber and wreaths, eggnog, stockings and the workplace secret Santa — there is a new child on the town. During the last decade the ugly Christmas sweater has firmly embedded itself in yuletide tradition.

You already know the one. It is a wooly pullover, often in numerous shades of pink, white and inexperienced, usually of questionable material, and with no less than one Christmas-inspired motif on it — a snowman, tinsel, a reindeer or sweet canes. Additional factors if it options 3D pom-pom or jingle bells.

The garment has rapidly develop into a necessary a part of the vacations, ubiquitous as Christmas lights and wrapping paper. It is obnoxious and cheesy, but in addition fuzzy and form of healthful — the style equal of a Hallmark Christmas film (with a wholesome dose of tongue-in-cheek).

It took a while for the UCS to search out its place within the pantheon of Christmas fundamentals, nonetheless.

Christmas-themed pullovers began making an look within the Fifties, a nod maybe to the vacation’s rising commercialization. Initially known as “Jingle Bell Sweaters,” they weren’t as garish as right now’s iterations, and located little reputation available in the market, though some TV personalities — notably crooners Val Doonican and Andy Williams — actually embraced the ugly aspect of the festive topper.

Val Doonican performing on the ABC series 'The Val Doonican Show'.

Val Doonican acting on the ABC collection ‘The Val Doonican Present’. Credit score: Walt Disney Tv Photograph Arc/Walt Disney Tv/Walt Disney Tv by way of Getty

It wasn’t till the Nineteen Eighties that the merchandise hit the mainstream. The shift got here because of popular culture and comedies, with goofball dad characters like Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold in “Nationwide Lampoon’s Christmas Trip” turning the vacation sweater into an uncomely however endearing expression of cheer. Snowflake-emblazoned sweaters weren’t thought of cool, however they radiated xmas, and had been sported at workplace events and on Christmas Day.

The resurgence did not final lengthy. Within the Nineties the Christmas sweater light in reputation; it was one thing solely your retro older family would ever consider sporting or gifting. By the flip of the brand new millennium, the merchandise was extensively thought of an eyebrow-raising sartorial mishap.

Consider 2001’s “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” during which Colin Firth’s Mark Darcy turns to greet Bridget (Renée Zellweger) at a household celebration sporting an unattractive knitted garment that includes a large red-nosed reindeer. Bridget is horrified. So had been you, in all probability, for those who watched it within the cinema. However you in all probability additionally smiled. Such is the heartwarming energy of the UCS.

Colin Firth in "Bridget Jones's Diary."

Colin Firth in “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” Credit score: Miramax/Everett Assortment

The early 2000s additionally noticed new life breathed into this now vacation staple. In line with the “Ugly Christmas Sweater Social gathering Ebook: The Definitive Information to Getting Your Ugly On,” Christmas sweater events began kicking off simply across the time Bridget was recoiling at Darcy’s outfit.

The primary so themed get-together occurred in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2002, mentioned Brian Miller, one of many guide’s authors and founding father of on-line store UglyChristmasSweaterParty.com, in a cellphone interview. “It is laborious to say what triggered the change in perspective, however I believe that the second somebody wore the garment in a humorous method, individuals began seeing the comedian aspect of it, and pondering ‘this factor behind the closet might be enjoyable, as a substitute of one thing terrible that no one desires’,” he mentioned.

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The recognition of the ugly sweater snowballed from there.

Over the next decade, the festive knit advanced into “a brand new vacation custom,” as Miller described it. “It turned our era’s mistletoe,” he added. “Which is fairly outstanding, when you concentrate on it.”

Quick-fashion giants like Topshop and high-end retailers like Nordstrom started filling their cabinets and websites with gaudy designs every vacation season. Classic shops and the Salvation Military capitalized on the pattern by upping their shares of fuzzy snowmen and dancing Santa pullovers. Even the style pack got here round. In 2007, Stella McCartney launched a polar bear-themed alpine sweater. Givenchy adopted in 2010, and Dolce & Gabbana the next 12 months.

The Stella McCartney Autumn/Winter 2008 fashion show.

The Stella McCartney Autumn/Winter 2008 vogue present. Credit score: Chris Moore/Catwalking/Getty Pictures

2012 was a turning level for the ugly sweater craze. UK charity Save the Youngsters launched Christmas Jumper Day, a fundraising occasion encouraging individuals to don their most cringeworthy sweaters. British newspaper The Telegraph described the merchandise as “this season’s must-have,” whereas the New York Occasions reported on ugly Christmas sweater-themed runs, pub crawls and specialised e-tailers booming throughout the States. Concurrently, the knits started exhibiting extra tinsel, bells and wacky particulars, reaching peak kitsch.

Celebrities, from Taylor Swift to Kanye West embraced the pattern, too. Late evening discuss present host Jimmy Fallon even began working a daily phase known as “12 Days of Christmas Sweaters,” which nonetheless airs right now.

Kanye West

Kanye West Credit score: John Shearer/WireImage/WireImage

If something, the rise of social media has solely heightened the ‘It’ standing of the ugly sweater. At the moment, we compete to point out off our Christmas-sweater love on Instagram, whereas anybody from mass retailer Goal to quick meals chain Crimson Lobster (whose UCS incorporates a pocket to maintain meals heat), and extra vogue homes provide their very own variations of the garment.

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“Once I attended my first Ugly Sweater Social gathering within the early 2000s, I might have by no means anticipated the garment would take off like this,” Miller mentioned. “Though it is simple to see why: ugly knits may be worn by anybody — from my daughter at her college’s ugly sweater contest to workplace employees at their finish of 12 months celebration. They’re democratic. And so they’re a whole lot of enjoyable. Christmas may be fairly aggravating — sporting one thing ridiculous can assist take the strain off.”

This text was first revealed in December 2019.

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