Chaos Attraction

On The Nature of “Ugly” Holiday Sweaters

2018-12-12, 5:55 a.m.

Hey Saturn, I have some thoughts on this!

Just for the heck of it, I decided to research the concept. Where did “ugly” in “ugly holiday sweaters” come from, anyway?

I found several articles on the history of the phenomenon.

The History of Ugly Christmas Sweaters starts the earliest, talking about the history of Scandinavian-style handmade sweaters. Key Events In The History Of Ugly Christmas Sweaters says it started in the 1950’s, resurged in the 80’s and then came back around 2001. The History of the Ugly Christmas Sweater says this trend started in the 1980’s, citing The Cosby Show and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. But it sounds like the real craze took off around 2001 in Canada:

From The Craze Behind That Ugly Christmas Sweater:

”From talking to people, I think the consensus is that the majority of people spend 364 days out of the year worrying about what they look like," Paulson told ABC News today. "[The sweater party] gives them one night to look totally stupid, to feel like they fit in, no matter what they wear. All inhibitions are gone."
Miller bought the web domain name and started a blog to keep track of rising trends, for example, ugly Christmas sweaters. Then in 2009, after hearing that people were having a hard time finding ugly holiday sweaters, the three started an online business.
They bought about 50 sweaters from a local Goodwill. Paulson said he thought he'd wasted $75. But by the next day, "they were all gone," he said.”

Apparently a good chunk of people are making money off of collecting thrift store sweaters and selling them, or creating their own. Damn, I wish I didn’t suck so hard at business and math so I could do something like that.

”Schloetel said that ugly Christmas sweaters were good conversation starters.
"For one thing, everyone just looks so silly," she said. "You can't help but smile. You don't have to worry about getting dressed up or getting ready. The worse you look, the better. It puts a real fun atmosphere in place."

Some sweaters can be considered actually ugly, by design or accidental. But yes, it seems like the collective definition of “ugly” sweaters by America (at least) is “anything holiday at all any more.” I think what that boils down to is that in my experience, most people don’t like “weird.” And people such as myself, who like the “ugly” sweaters and holiday bling and costumes and dressing up to go to festivals and whatnot, are “weeeeeird” and creep out a fair chunk of people. Those people always seem to outnumber those like myself, so their collective definition of “ugly” has won out. I’m not sure why that came into vogue so much, but it has.This article is kind of judgy as to where one can wear the sweater (ONLY at ugly sweater parties, apparently).

I frankly don’t have the energy to argue with anyone on this topic (or any topics at all these days, really). so fine, it’s “ugly.” I’ll embrace it. You know what else is ugly? Pug dogs kinda are, but we also seem to find them kinda cute. There’s the concept of “jolie laide” in French, which is kind something like “beautiful ugly” and refers to someone who’s unconventionally attractive. A sweater that gives you a laugh may be ugly, but it also entertained you and those who saw it (and are entertained by that sort of thing) enjoyed it. People freaking love it when I show up in tacky Christmas bling that lights up, unless they are the sorts to be horrified by tacky Christmas bling that lights up. There’s an entire show called “The Great Christmas Light Fight” that I am watching as I write this. Look how happy those people are!

And to be fair, I’ve gone around photographing all kinds of ugly sweaters this holiday season, and by ugly I mean “deliberately ridiculous.” Target must be making a mint on these things. They may be “ugly,” but it’s getting popular. Classy holiday sweaters that aren’t jokes are...fairly rare, actually, right now? So the “ugly” must be doing something right. At least it’s memorable.

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