It’s almost that time of year again…the time when would-be merrymakers stare into their closets and ask themselves: “Do I pull out my Christmas jumper, or do I shove it further to the back?” Not to worry: go ahead and pull that jumper out. And not just so you won’t hurt great-aunt Thelma’s feelings. There’s another good reason: They’re back.
The back story
That, of course, begs the question: “How did Christmas jumpers get started, and where did they go?”. Some trace it back to the 1950s, when the commercialization of Christmas first took the world by storm. But according to The Mancunion, most people attribute the phenomenon to American actor Bill Cosby, who proudly sported a Christmas jumper on TV in the early 1980s. Regardless of the origins, however, the Christmas jumper then disappeared into obscurity and disdain. It regained the attention of pop culture in 2001, when Mr. Darcy sported a Christmas jumper in “Bridgette Jones’s Diary.”
Since then, the image of the Christmas jumper has morphed from tacky to, “It’s so ugly, it’s cute.” Mr. Darcy kicked it off; then other celebrities like Justin Bieber and Matt Damon joined the trend. Barry Tulip, of Gieves & Hawkes, offered this theory for the rise in popularity: “It’s always been part of London’s street style scene to experiment with clothes that look ‘wrong’ or ‘uncool’, and the obsession with cringe worthy Christmas knits is a perfect example.” Chief executive Paul Marchant of Primark hypothesized that people overwhelmed by economic difficulties were seizing the opportunity to be festive.
They may all be right. After news presenters like Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby wore Christmas jumpers on their morning show, the trend took on a life of its own. Mirror reports that Amazon’s sales of Christmas jumpers increased a whopping 600 percent between 2010 and 2011, and the trend shows no sign of slowing. Christmas jumpers are so popular right now that shops are racing to keep up with demand.
What’s in store for 2013?
What does Christmas 2013 hold in store for Christmas jumpers? Well, Good Housekeeping reports that Friday, December 13, is Christmas Jumper Day. The charity Save the Children, with the goal of “making the world better with a sweater,” has created Christmas Jumper Day to help raise money to save children’s lives worldwide. A lot of celebrities are already on board. All you have to do to participate is wear your favorite Christmas jumper on December 13 and donate £1 to Save the Children. For more information, go to christmasjumperday.org.
And that’s not the only charitable drive centered around Christmas jumpers. The Red River Valley Fairgrounds in North Dakota hosted an Ugly Sweater Run to raise money for Toys for Tots. While serious runners often pay big money for streamlined, low-friction gear, more than 1,000 runners gamely donned bulky sweaters complete with bows and jingle bells.
A group in Kansas City, Missouri, is busily planning their 9th Annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Party. A fundraiser for a children’s organization, the party includes food and drinks, live entertainment, and an auction. Guests can even rent Christmas sweaters if they don’t have their own.
It doesn’t have to be a fundraiser. The Christmas Jumper Party has become a rite of passage; in some circles, it’s the highlight of the holiday social season. It’s easy to host and fun to attend. Invitations often include photos of the worst Christmas jumpers to inspire guests. Hosts encourage participation by offering prizes for Ugliest Jumper, Ugliest Couple, Ugliest Pet Jumper, etc. The website Parties4Me even offers a Christmas Minute to Win It section chock full of games that will add silly fun to any Ugly Christmas Jumper Party. And be prepared to have your picture taken as you arrive. No Ugly Christmas Jumper party would be complete without a live slideshow. Guests can vote for the winners in each category.
This Christmas season, join the fun and drag that Christmas jumper out of your closet. If you don’t have a vintage one, buy a new one. Think of it as an opportunity to break out of your typical fashion bubble and just have good, old-fashioned fun without having to worry about having the most stylish outfit at the party.
Megan Barnes is a style enthusiast. She frequently writes about fashion history and new trends.