Ahhh…the ubiquitous ugly Christmas sweater, or “jumper”, as it’s called across the pond. It is the perfect metaphor for 2016, the year of the ugly Christmas sweater. Look to the left and you find an image of the famous Christmas party exchange between Bridget (Renée Zellweger) and her adorable crush, Mark Darcy, in the rom-com classic, Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001). I chose to open with this image because it perfectly embodies all the horror and hilarity such garments entail. I also picked it because hideous Christmas attire is an equal opportunity offender and I’m annoyed with the dozens of bloggers ragging endlessly on the cringe-worthy status of Mark’s Rudolph jumper, while Bridget’s parochial, poinsettia-filled nightmare gets a pass. Hideous holiday fashions (not to be confused with the fab Fair Isle styles like this sparkler from YSL that Queen Bey rocks in the image below, or those comfy ski sweaters Abercrombie & Fitch have cornered the market on) are gender neutral and have been plaguing people’s closets and bodies since the 19th century.
If you’re a Gen Xer like myself, then you may feel somewhat conflicted about wearing them. Why? Because the minute you see or slip one on, the nostalgia factor kicks in and suddenly you’re 6 years-old, again, in your red flannel footed onesie, sittin’ under the Christmas tree in your parents wood-panelled rec room, waiting for Santa to slide down the chimney for his milk and cookies. Visions of cheerfully noisy holiday meals or of smiling neighbours dropping off sweets flood your imagination, taking you to a happier time when Christmas wasn’t just a cash grab, or a tense time we rush through. However, a week later you’re in line at Home Depot behind a guy that could have been in Deliverance (1972), sporting a green and red pullover featuring Mrs. Claus who dons a red vinyl teddy, wielding a bullwhip over a bare-bottomed Santa and now all you want is to bathe in bleach—not that I care what two consenting geriatrics do, it’s just not my kind of Christmas deal and also not one I wanna explain to my little nieces if this guy happens to be in front of us at Toys R Us. Such atrocious accoutrements are at the heart of my long-standing love-hate relationship with ugly Christmas sweaters.
In an effort to better understand this phenomenon, a metaphor for 2016, I’ve broken them down into 3 categories: good, bad, and indefensibly ugly. I repeat: these selections do not include those cozy knits and cardies Free People makes or the cheaper version sold at Forever21 and other places (see images below); rather, they run the gamut from cute or kitschy to terribly tacky to utterly inexcusable. So without further ado, here are my picks for the ugliest Christmas sweaters of 2016.
The Good: Cute, Kitschy and Seasonally Appropriate Ugly Christmas Sweater
First off, let’s be clear about one thing here: ugly Christmas sweaters are corny and kinda unattractive. Point-blank. Period. The only thing that differentiates one category from the other is the degree to which they are holding ugliness in captivity. Although having a “good” category may seem like a contradiction in terms, there actually is such a thing as acceptable holiday apparel. Look online and you’re bound to find something that works for just about everyone you know.
Movie-Themed Swag Selections
A good example of that would be the sweater line developed with the Star Wars trilogy in mind, as well as more classic ones like those that boast taglines from now-classic Christmas films like Home Alone (1990), shown below.
A Few Cheekier Choices
In this section you’ll find a couple of styles that are geared towards those of us who don’t shy away from more tongue-in-cheek fashion choices like the “Single and Ready to Jingle” top from retrofestive.ca and this clever ugly Christmas sweater hoodie designed by UnderGroundGear that I’m now coveting and that someone should ship to Ludacris to rock.
The Bad: Gloriously Gaudy and Terribly Tacky Ugly Christmas Sweater
This category is a real mixed bag. In it you will find no shortage of chintzy blinking lights, felt appliqué snowmen and reindeer, as well as all manner of Christmas bells, balls and candy canes. I admit to drawing a sizable amount of inspiration for these sweaters from Jimmy Fallon’s “12 Days of Christmas Sweaters” past and present and the veritable plethora of unparalleled uber cheesy horror available online.
I have a feeling you may be familiar with some of these sweaters, especially the unforgettable Christmas vest that Matt Damon has now immortalized below. Before we begin, I’d like to take the time to send a special shout out to rustyzipper.com for being the template for everything wrong with Christmas attire, no matter how nostalgic they make me….sigh.
The Ugly: an Unwarranted and Unjustifiable Use of Textiles for the Ugly Christmas Sweater
Finally, we come to the cream of the crop: my top ugliest Christmas sweaters of 2016, a metaphor for 2016’s ugliest moments. And when I say “ugly” I mean Christmas-themed clothing that constitutes a visual assault of sorts by being inherently revolting, as exemplified by “The Santa Has Been Naughty” ugly Christmas sweater, or lacks any redeeming cute or kool aspect that might make it worth salvaging enough to make into category 2. Category 3 criteria isn’t concerned with how boldly bedazzled a cardie is or how awesomely cheesy the velvet elves sown around the sleeves of a sweater are. It’s simply about the “gross factor” and whether I physically recoil when I spot someone wearing it. That said, many thanks to uglychristmassweater.com and huffingtonpost.ca for giving me lots to work with. Please note that these selections only represent a small sample of the garments out there I find flat out nasty [never been a fan of toilet humour] or just wouldn’t be caught dead in for aesthetic or moral reasons. But don’t take my word for it. Please see for yourself and then feel free to weigh in with your own picks in the Comments section.
Happy 2017 and make sure it’s not an ugly Christmas sweater!