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The Ugly Christmas Sweater in Fashion & Pop Culture

Ugly Christmas sweaters have been our wardrobes for decades. For some, this is a second-hand Christmas present you despise and for others, this is a pricey investment. Some of us keep it casual and others want it eccentric. But why is this fashionable sweater so popular and timeless?

Image via Pinterest

Originally crafted for seafaring, the knit winter sweaters were targeted towards menswear. Around 1900, women started knitting sweaters to keep fishermen warm during the winter season. The garment has slowly built itself a reputation and became a tradition in local communities.

Whilst it gained popularity in the 1920s, this piece of clothing became a global market commodity around the 1950s due to the tremendous marketing of the Christmas holiday. The “Jingle Bell Sweaters” were massively produced at the time of a traditional comfy American Christmas, an effect of the biting reprimands of the war. However, the trend faded in the 60s to be replaced by finer clothes.

The 1980s, characterised by bold colours and funky patterns, provoked the revival of knitwear trends. From edgy knits on the catwalk to huge wool sweaters on the streets, the Christmas jumper found a place in the small screen and became mainstream. The 1984 sitcom The Cosby Show starred Bill Cosby in various cozy sweaters matching his warm persona on and off screen. The show appealed to the American audience for a decade and the garment was later named after him as the “Bill Cosby sweater."

Whilst too much associated with the type of item a dad could wear, the 90s generation rejected this piece of their wardrobe for neutral and baggy statements of the time but it recurred in the 2000s due to the massive mocking of the piece of clothing.

The authors of Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book: The Definitive Guide to Getting Your Ugly On retraces thousands of ugly winter sweaters on a ranking to plainly distasteful to painful to look at as a satire of the garment. The cheesy, joyful, cheerful party held in Vancouver sparked a cultural phenomenon hitting the high fashion runway. The fashion designer Stella McCarteny crafted an outfit based on winter sweaters in her fall collection of 2007. Then, in the early 2010s, Moschino, Jean Paul Gaultier, Chanel, and Dolce & Gabbana followed the mark with collections showing the staple.

To replicate the 1980s scheme, pop celebrities started following the trend with Taylor Swift hosting a Christmas-theme birthday party in 2019 and the Legally Blonde star Reese Witherspoon posing with her dogs on Instagram.

Image via Pinterest

The 2020 lockdown has impacted our lifestyle worldwide and the fashion world greatly. The art of staying and working home has become mainstream and comfy sweaters were a staple of the year. This was the resurgence of the garment found on various Instagram stories and Pinterest posts at this period of Christmas trees and flying wreaths.

In 2022, the sweater is considered both trendy and timeless, one of the rare staples to keep in our closet for the best time of the year while listening to up-beat Christmas songs.

Maybe this year you will skip on Mariah Carey.

Words by Johanna Payet

(@meetmeindetention_ on IG)

Edited by Lucy Eaton

(@llucyeaton on IG)


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