The History of the Ugly Christmas Sweater : Blame the '80s for popularizing bad taste

The History of the Ugly Christmas Sweater : Blame the '80s for popularizing bad taste

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

Christmas-themed pullovers started making an appearance in the 1950s, a nod perhaps to the holiday's growing commercialization. Initially referred to as "Jingle Bell Sweaters," they weren't as garish as today's iterations, and found little popularity in the market, although some TV personalities -- notably crooners Val Doonican and Andy Williams -- really embraced the ugly side of the festive topper.
Val Doonican performing on the ABC series 'The Val Doonican Show'. Credit: Walt Disney Television Photo Arc/Walt Disney Television/Walt Disney Television via Getty

Inspired by the '80s

As a clothing item, ugly sweaters were often featured on situation comedies in the 1980s. They were mostly cardigans, buttoned down the front. The Christmas theme entered around the same time, with the first mass-produced Christmas garments being made under the name of "jingle bell sweaters" during the 1980s as well.

A New Tradition

While no one may want to take the credit for ugly clothes, this tacky kind of holiday cheer has become a widespread festive tradition. The city of Vancouver claims to be the birthplace of the ugly sweater party after hosting an event in 2002. Every year since, the Original Ugly Christmas Sweater party has been held at the Commodore Ballroom, where the dress code ensures an ugly sweater affair. Chris Boyd and Jordan Birch, the co-founders of the Commodore's annual ugly sweater party, have even trademarked the word phrase "ugly Christmas sweater" and "ugly Christmas sweater party."

Celebrate The National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day!

Social media has had a huge impact on this trend of course. Young people started buying vintage knits to see who got the ugliest one. The internet helped boost this fashion until it got global! So 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.




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