The Pretty Past of Ugly Christmas Sweaters

15:00 December 17, 2020
By: Melanie Hucklebridge

Whether you choose to engage in a contest or to make fun of the ugliest ones you see, "ugly" sweaters are a big part of holiday festivities. The holiday-themed sweaters usually feature huge deer motifs, garland-embellished knit trees, festive felines, or giant red pompoms representing Rudolph's nose. These colorful sweaters can usually be found at every major retailer until deep into the season, and you can usually stock up for the next year at an after-Christmas sale.

The tradition of ugly sweaters began in the 1950s after the rapid commercialization of Christmas, although they weren't thought of as ugly then. Usually, they were quite simple patterns, with the stag motifs featured, but they were viewed as an artistic expression of the season. They weren't deemed as unusual, unattractive, or amusing until the popularization of odd patterns and designs was rapid in the 80s and 90s media scene. Popular characters such as Cliff Huxtable from The Cosby Show in the 90s or even the heartthrob Mark Darcy from Bridget Jones's Diary made these kinds of sweaters a regular occurrence at Christmas events.

No one knows why we still wear these sweaters, but they've remained a staple of holiday clothing over the past several decades. The ugly sweater trend became more and more widespread in the 2000s with the term trending on Google in 2007. Haute couture designers latched onto the trend in the past decade and began making designer Christmas sweaters for celebrities, TV regulars, and even politicians. The trend was massively impacted by the rise of social media, with younger generations showing off thrifted and homemade sweaters to begin one of our favorite holiday pastimes: the ugly Christmas sweater contest!

Even today, the idea of an ugly holiday sweater has translated into a national day of celebration. December 21 is National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, so be sure to stop by a clothing store or local thrift store to look for a premade one, or hit a craft store for supplies to make your own. Online shopping has become a huge part of everyday life in 2020, so combing the offerings on Etsy is a great way to support a small business and get your perfect ugly sweater. The sweaters are not limited to Christmas designs, but cover a range of options, including Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and even your favorite pop culture characters, such as Baby Yoda or Dwight Schrute from The Office.

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