A Cozy History of Ugly Christmas Sweaters


Madeline Singer

Megan Reese (12) and Mrs. Renehan show off their sweaters.

Madeline Singer, Editor-In-Chief

   You’ve seen it for many winters: tons of funny Christmas sweaters dug up from grandpa’s closets and worn shamelessly to one of those tacky Christmas parties thrown throughout the month of December.  But have you ever wondered what started this peculiar trend? Even high-fashion retailers have now included their own versions. So where did it begin? This is the tale of the ugly Christmas sweater. 

   Ugly Christmas sweaters made their popular appearance in the 1950’s with the mass commercialization of Christmas. They were first known as “Jingle Bell Sweaters,” and featured distinct Christmas themed decorations. In fact, the original ugly Christmas sweaters were never intended to be “ugly,” they were actually pretty artistic and joyful. The trend had a quiet presence in the media until the 80s, when it became popular on television.

   The character that popularized weird sweaters with strange patterns was Cliff Huxtable from 1980s sitcom, The Cosby Show. By the end of the decade, it was common for actors in Christmas shows to wear them. During the 90s, the style wound down, but never died. The turning point was when the character Mark Darcy got shamed in the 2001 film Bridget Jones’s Diary with one of the most out-of-place designs to be seen on screen. Designers were hand-knitting one-of-a-kind sweaters. After that, the sweaters stepped into the twenty-first century with renewed strength. It was in Vancouver, Canada that Chris Boyd and Jordan Birch launched the first Christmas Sweater Party. The idea soon spread all over Canada and the U.S., and later around the world. The parties turned into massive events, often in support of charity causes. By 2007, ugly Christmas sweater searches started to soar on Google and the trend slowly weaved its way back into the media.

   In the early 2000s, various fashion designers released Christmas sweater collections based on the ugly ones. Soon, retail stores picked up on the trend, and nowadays you can buy them brand new instead of scavenging in thrift stores and inherited wardrobes. Celebrities, TV stars, and even politicians boarded the train and turned it into a common Christmas sight. Of course, social media has had a huge impact on this trend. Young people started buying vintage knits to see who got the ugliest one. The internet helped boost this fashion until it became global! Now we even have our national Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. That’s right! There is an official national day to wear your ugly sweater. Honor National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day on December 21 by wearing something festive! Time to wear your holiday sweater loud and proud.