The Ugly Christmas Sweater

From The Cosby Show with Bill Cosby and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase to The Santa Clause with Tim Allen and Bridget Jones’ Diary with Colin Firth, the “ugly Christmas sweater” as worn in film and television has become a popular mainstay. Traditionally, seen with the iconic image of the “Cosby Sweater” and “jingle bell sweaters”, today the ugly Christmas sweater has emerged with a resurgence of popularity.

The ‘ugly’ from too much embellishment, tinsel and festive pattern, is placed in contrast with the soft, cozy, warm oversized sweater – a staple in every Christmas wardrobe. This dialectic serves to conjure up two parts, the ugly and the Christmas sweater; without its counterpart, both loose its meaning.  So what do we owe to this joining of the ugly in the Christmas sweater?


Pop Culture

The image of the ugly Christmas sweater has become a hallmark for the holiday season. It is one that has resulted in a co-opting of the hip, trendy and nerdy, ultimately making the ugly Christmas sweater a hot commodity. As it is re-appropriated over and over in film, television, and other pop culture outlets, the ugly Christmas sweater has shown to hold significant popularity and economic benefits. Vintage stores, the Salvation Army, and Goodwill are re-defining the benefits of this trend, but we are also seeing this trend hit retailers, online shopping sites and even the book market.  As the ‘business of the Ugly’ continues to capitalize and the ugly Christmas sweaters continue to be worn, it seems like this pop culture ‘trend’ has made its way to being a permanent tradition.


While, we may associate the laughable depictions of Christmas trees, reindeer or snowmen as tacky it does conjure up sentimentality for the past. These highly embellished and animated sweaters bring about the inner adult child, making us remember happy associations from the childlike aspect of Christmas. When we ruminate in recollections of the past, it makes sense to think about homemade decorations, stringing up lights to brighten the home or the decorated Christmas tree. As we “deck the halls” in celebration of Christmas, why not decorate ourselves?


Even though the ugly Christmas sweater is a site for bad taste and hideous style it undeniably appreciates comical laughter and letting your guard down. Perhaps, we owe this tradition to the freedom it gives us to transcend the boundaries of fashion and embrace the beauty of ‘ugly’.


Article written by Raylin Grace aka Red Curl Owl with Luevo. You can follow Raylin at @raylingm