About ten years ago, my daughter asked to borrow my Christmas sweater. I was pleased that she liked it, until she came home from school that day with first prize in the ugly Christmas sweater contest. The phenomenon of the ugly Christmas sweater has been with us for a long time, but the trend jumped the shark when manufacturers began cranking out sweaters that were intentionally ugly. But how did it ever start?
Christmas sweaters started out as festive and fun, and only gradually became tacky as their creators ramped up the festiveness. Special sweaters for Christmas have been around at least since the 1890s. There is one event that clearly stands out in their history- the “jingle bell sweaters” of the 1930s. First, the bells were lined up down the front to resemble buttons on a cardigan, but more and more jingle bells were added until everyone could hear the wearer coming. Creative designs ramped up the holiday imagery through the 20th century. But what made the ugly Christmas sweater a thing was the utter sincerity of those who enjoyed wearing them- and the utter horror of receiving one as a gift if you were one who did not. Read about the evolution of the ugly Christmas sweater at Mental Floss.
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