Ugly Christmas sweaters have gone from cringe-worthy items to creative fashion must-haves

(Photo used by permission of Héloïse Schep)
Freshmen Rebecca Waterson and Héloïse Schep hug the week before winter break while Schep wears her Christmas sweater.

Ugly Christmas sweaters are a fun way to get into the holiday spirit. While most of these jolly jumpers display Christmas-related images with the occasional strand of tinsel, some feature festive additions such as lights and a button that enables the sweater to sing.

“After seeing the ‘I Light Up!’ sticker on the sweater, I instantly fell in love,” freshman Rebecca Waterson said. Waterson’s sweater depicts a Christmas tree; lights strung around the tree illuminate when a button is pressed.

“I see them as a way to make friends laugh, and I think most other people see ‘ugly’ sweaters as that, too,” Waterson said.

Senior Isabelle Leavy said she thinks ugly Christmas sweaters are also great for getting in the holiday spirit.

“It’s a simple, stylish way to be festive, and often you can get them cheap at thrift shops,” Levy said. “They make choosing my outfits this week very easy. (I will wear) black pants and a Christmas sweater every day, and everyone will know that I’m hyped for the festive season.”

Leavy owns four ugly Christmas sweaters; her favorite is one with gold baubles and a trim.

(Photo used by permission of Wikimedia Commons)
A knitted Christmas sweater similar to the ones owned by high-school students.

Freshman Monet Cook said she thought ugly Christmas sweaters are  becoming less ugly. Cook bought her first ugly Christmas sweater in late November; she said that one person called it “cringey,” but otherwise she hasn’t been made fun of.

(Photo used by permission of Schep)
Freshman Héloïse Schep and former SCDS student Etta Lauchland take a selfie in their sweaters at a Christmas party.

“Personally I don’t think it’s that ugly,” Cook said. “It’s definitely different (because it sings), but not ugly.”

Cook’s sweater features a penguin DJ with sunglasses, and music plays when a button is pressed.

“I think they have risen in popularity with the rise of dorky cuteness in fashion,” Leavy said.

Ugly Christmas sweaters were first produced in the 1950’s, but they didn’t become popular until the 1980’s, when they were termed “Jingle Bell Sweaters.” In the 2000’s, people began throwing ugly Christmas sweater parties and wearing ugly Christmas sweaters ironically. The trend soon caught on.

In recent years, ugly Christmas sweater popularity has skyrocketed. The sudden surge in the number of times the term has been searched on Google shows this clearly. According to Google Trends, the popularity of the search term “ugly Christmas sweater” peaked in 2014 (although 2015 and 2016 have been close).

(Photo used by permission of Schep)
Freshman Larkin Barnard-Bahn holds freshman Héloïse Schep while they wear their Christmas sweaters.

In a poll taken on Dec. 6, 19 percent of 114 SCDS high-school students said they owned ugly Christmas sweaters. The majority of those students said that they bought their first ugly Christmas sweater this year or last.

Freshman Clayton Townsend made his ugly Christmas sweater after winning a kit at a party, and it shows two reindeer jumping over each other. He said he started wearing it last year and was made fun of, but he has gotten more compliments over time.

As a result of ugly Christmas sweaters becoming popular, more stores, such as Target, Nordstrom, Amazon, Walmart, Kohl’s and Macy’s, are beginning to sell them,.

(Photo used by permission of Schep)
Freshman Héloïse Schep and former SCDS student Etta Lauchland hosted an ugly Christmas sweater party last year, at which guests participated in holiday-themed activities, such as decorating gingerbread reindeer.

“When I was little, people didn’t really get why I wore them,” freshman Héloïse Schep said. “It wasn’t something that people would do ironically. The only people that would wear them were the people who were really into Christmas. But recently Christmas sweaters are everywhere – even big stores like Target are catching on.”

Schep’s favorite ugly Christmas sweater pictures two penguins, Christmas ornaments and holly wreaths. Schep said it’s her favorite because she has red pants that match the design.

In fact, Schep hosted an ugly Christmas sweater party last year with her friend, former SCDS student Etta Lauchland. All the guests wore ugly sweaters and participated in holiday-themed activities, such as decorating gingerbread reindeer.

“The whole atmosphere was very Christmasy, and it was super fun. I’d definitely do it again,” Schep said.

By Larkin Barnard-Bahn

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