Recently, Americans were subjected to National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. It’s a day in which people of all ages and backgrounds celebrate the holiday season by donning that dubious garment: an often hideous, garishly designed top — usually knitted, sometimes made by someone’s eager aunt. It’s a staple for millennials and hipsters, worn sometimes ironically, and sometimes just because it’s fun party and office attire.
Houstonians are in on the trend, wearing these bits of novelty knitwear with pride — even non-fashionistas. Pipeline controller Anthony Gassnola proudly posted an Instagram photo of he and his co-workers wearing some holiday jumpers; Gassnola showed up wearing a jet-black-with-ornaments sweater vest. “I have to work Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so I’ll probably wear it again one of those days,” he says.
Locals who are in need of ugly sweaters to gain entry to the soirees happening this week can find them online, or even at a Target or Walmart. Those who love shopping local can head to Pavement Clothing in Montrose, which generally boasts seven to eight racks of ugly Christmas sweaters. A popular, Houston-themed item this year is the “Houston Strong” sweater that online vendor Cars & Milk has for sale on its website.
Once you have your garish goods, simply type in “ugly Christmas sweater party” in the Facebook search engine, and you’ll find all the local, crazy, winter-wear happenings that will be popping off inside and outside the loop this week.
Midtown hot spot Belle Station will be home to not one, but three, sweater parties — their annual shindig happens Thursday; partiers can stuff themselves on a 48-ounce Tomahawk steak, and order bottle service. There’s also an event for local brothers of the Sigma Beta Rho fraternity on Thursday, and another one on Christmas night.
Recording and performance artist — and Houston native — Marrshun Black will have an ugly sweater contest at his “Nightmare Before Christmas” show Friday, at Super Happy Fun Land. (The winner will receive a cash prize as well as custom Marrshun swag.) For the Brooklyn-based Marrshun, getting folks to show up in jumpers is a fun, creative way to bring people together during the holidays. “I love ugly Christmas sweaters,” he says, “and normally they are DIY. So, it’s my way of having guests interact with one another and it’s also something to look forward to.”
Just how did wearing tacky Christmas sweaters become the in-thing to do? Blame the Brits. Back in the ’80s, U.K. morning-show hosts (like “knitwear pioneer” Gyles Brandreth) regularly rocked them during Christmastime. These breakfast show presenters were said to be picking up on the holiday-themed tops that singers like Andy Williams and Perry Como would wear on TV Christmas specials. (Thanks, gents.)
While ugly holiday sweaters began getting a rep as gag gifts during the ’90s and 2000s — even being used as a visual gag in the movie Bridget Jones’s Diary — their campy flair has made them hot items again during this decade.
In 2011, Amazon reported an increase in sales of 600 percent, while fashion labels like Ralph Lauren, Burberry and Jil Sander have dropped their own holiday knitwear.
Christmas sweaters have even been used for a good cause. On the same day as our National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, UK charity Save the Children held its annual Christmas Jumper Day fundraising campaign, where people were asked to don their “daftest, most wonderful woolies” to raise awareness, and make a donation. (So far, the campaign has raised 253,000 pounds.) Clearly, these Christmas sweaters are in demand, and can bring joy to the world.
But they’re still ugly.