Fashionably (and Seasonably) Ugly

One day during the week, I took a break from work to make some tea. I mindlessly turned on the TV.

I saw Kelly and Ryan or some other pair of daytime talk show hosts depart from their attractive and well-put together looks to greet studio and TV land audiences wearing bulky, sparkly and tassel adorned sweaters featuring Santas and reindeer and decked out conifers.

Ahhhh. Ugly Christmas Sweaters.

When did this fashion become so chic?

I remember Colin Firth, in the first Bridget Jones movie, adorably awkward, wearing a ridiculous hand-knit pullover gifted to him by his mum. I don’t know if this was the start of the trend, but the situation really spoke to so many people.

What do you do with a gift of clothing that is ugly in the extreme yet given with so much love?

Do you wear it publicly and risk humiliation, or do you say thank you and hide the garment in a rarely opened drawer, taking it out only when needing to show the person who gave it to you your affection or when you want to re-gift the item?

The possibility that friends and neighbors would mistake you for having such bad taste is horrifying, right?

But, it’s natural to want to please someone you love, the person who chose the woven collection of yarn, sewn-on sequins and sewn-in sentiment.

And then, everyone started laughing about the phenomena. Misery loves company. It was a shared experience. Most of us received presents of clothes we couldn’t bear wearing, or would not wear anywhere we would see people we knew….and then, because it was a shared experience, it became fashionable.

The uglier the better.

We got a collective chuckle when we saw Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Roseanne Barr wore some doozies of Seasonal Ugly cardigans during the nine seasons of her sitcom.

When Ugly Christmas Sweater parties became the rage, those of us who suffered through years of receiving more tasteful gifts, had to excavate bins or shuffle through hangers at Good Will in order to find something suitably ugly — that fit.

As Ron Popeil, the pitch meister of gadgets would tease…..But wait. There’s more….

Now, ugly Christmas sweaters seem to be high fashion.

Nordstom’s offers a whole category of them. (Hopefully, they don’t waste good cashmere.) Amazon and specialty online merchants, like Tipsy Elves, offer extensive collections.

They might feature simple two-tone graphics depicting anything but subtle images, like reindeer fornicating, or they might picture St. Nick sharing a brew with Jesus, or they’ll announce something suitable for a soon to be banned sexist office party like Jingle My Bells

I think about the supposed origin of Christmas gifts. When the three wise men followed a star to a manger, to welcome and worship a prophesied infant king, bringing gold and incense and myrrh, their mission was very serious.

But LAUGHTER is holy, too.

Giving and receiving, wearing UGLY CHRISTMAS SWEATERS remind us of our shared humanity, of our imperfections, of our self-consciousness, of our playfulness, of our love.

Wearable, washable laughter is no small thing.








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