Ugly Christmas Sweaters It comes with lumpy textures, dizzying patterns, jingle bells, puff balls, and sometimes lights that really twinkle. It's dowdy. Tacky. Slightly clueless. And above all, festive. The ugly Christmas sweater seems designed to sit in the back of Grandma's attic or at the bottom of a thrift shop barrel. But you won't find it there anymore. Outrageous holiday knitwear has become such a seasonal staple that major retailers are now selling their own wacky Christmas sweaters, and they're flying off the shelves--the uglier, the better. Where the thread begins Because Christmaswear is grandparents' terrain, it's only fair to look back at the ugly sweater's own ancestors. Grandpa was a Fair Isle sweater from the islands of northern Scotland, created using a traditional knitting technique that allowed for colorful patternwork. Grandma was a Norwegian Mariusgenser sweater, dyed in Norway's national colors and developed into a ski slope fashion statement.
Believe it or not, the descendants of these European sweaters that hit U.S. markets were originally quite cool. They were cozy and practical, with a hint of Scandinavian luxury. In the 1950s and '60s, the holiday season became more commercial and average Americans embraced the Christmas spirit en masse. Festive "Jingle Bell sweaters" featuring reindeer and pine trees started popping up around the cold months. ...Things got ugly
In the '80s, garish designs were everywhere in pop culture, from animal prints to neon geometry. Patterned sweaters and vests were a mainstay on sitcoms like The Cosby Show. But the ugly Christmas sweater was always a slightly different animal.
With all its bells and whistles, it evokes some universal constant of celebrating the holidays with kin. In fact, the quintessential tacky Christmas sweater is a lot like family itself: homey and nostalgic; loud and quirky and often embarrassing. It's the "made-with-love" gift you can't return. So festive sweaters became a punchline and a nod to a widely relatable experience. From bad to fad Released in 1989, " National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" is widely credited with renewing interest in the ugly Christmas sweater. The enduring holiday film is packed with some serious knitwear. Slapstick comedy dressed in a seasonal cardigan is a winning satire of the American Christmas ideal.
Thirteen years after "Christmas Vacation," friends Jordan Birch and Chris Boyd were credited with throwing the first ever ugly Christmas sweater party. The bash took place in Vancouver's Commodore Ballroom, and was described by the hosts as a "cheesy, feel-good, festive party."
The party theme quickly took hold elsewhere. Funny, warm-hearted, and brimming with throwback charm, ugly sweater parties provided an easy way to celebrate the season without taking oneself too seriously. Soon people everywhere were getting in on the fun, digging through forgotten boxes and vintage shops to find the most garish garment. The pullover takeover Today, there are many genres of "ugly Christmas sweater." People aren't just laughing AT Christmas sweaters, they're laughing WITH them, too. Many feature images and quotes from timeless Christmas movies. Of course, Griswold Sweaters inspired by "Christmas Vacation" still reign; a chill party among friends is a good place to pull out the Shitters Full Sweater. A Home Alone Sweater hearkens back to the childhood classic. Fans of "Elf" would seize upon a Will Ferrell Sweater.
As it turns out, musical artists' merch can also be seamlessly combined with the "ugly sweater" vibe. A Wu Tang Sweater with the famous "W" would make a nice Secret Santa gift for a fan of the '90s hip hop group. Grateful Dead Sweaters replace reindeer imagery with the instantly recognizable Dancing Bear logo. Niche Christmas sweaters can translate almost any interest into a festive outfit.
These days, people don their wacky Christmas sweaters with an ironic wink. But that doesn't diminish the spirit of this newfound tradition. It can be fun to put inhibitions aside and go all-in on Christmas spirit--with all the felt, tassels, and beads it demands.