There is no doubt that the ugly Christmas sweater phenomenon is in full swing.
Those horrendously tacky, over-the-top displays of holiday cheer that you wouldn’t have been caught dead in just ten years ago are all the rage this holiday season. A quick search for ‘ugly Christmas sweaters’ on Google returns over 1 million results covering everything from DIY sweater tutorials to blogs that cover nothing but ugly sweaters. Even boutique shops are cashing in on the fad, selling vintage sweaters for what would have seemed like an inordinate amount of money just a few years ago.
It seems, in fact, that the ugly Christmas sweater is here to stay.
How did such a phenomenon become so mainstream?
Once regulated to the back of the closet, the reindeer and felt covered garments that we call Christmas sweaters have undergone somewhat of a renaissance in the past few decades. Spurred on by icons like Bill Cosby and Chevy Chase in the popular holiday classic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, the ugly sweater saw a spike in popularity during the mid to late 1980s. As with most short-lived fads, the glamour of the ugly sweater faded as we entered the 90s only to see a resurgence sometime around 2001.
The comeback of the sweater nearly two decades after its original heyday is due in part to the parallel rise of what many like to colloquially call ‘hipsterism.’ The fad of ironic sweater wearing has since transformed from a local phenomenon into a nationally recognized way to celebrate the holiday season. Ugly sweater parties are sprouting up all across the United States, with attendees scouring their local thrift stores in the hopes of finding the most hideous sweater imaginable. Even high-fashion retailers like Nordstrom now carry a selection of high priced, highly ironic sweaters for the particularly discerning holiday shopper.
Other countries such as Britain and Canada have also jumped on the ugly sweater train. Christmas jumpers, as they are called across the pond, now enjoy a cult following similar to what we see here in the United States. Not to be left out of the party, Canada claims to have held the first official ugly sweater party as far back as 2002. What constitutes a sweater party as ‘official’, however, the Canadians won’t say.
Given the recent rise of the Christmas sweater in popular culture (even Bank of America dedicated an entire commercial to them), many have begun to declare the end of the Christmas sweater era. Whether or not that turns out to be the case, one thing is for sure. For many, the ugly Christmas sweater is a fun, ironic way to laugh off all the pressures of the holiday season. And in that sense, it does its job perfectly.
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