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Inside the Mind of a Teen: ‘Tis the Season for Ugly Holiday Sweaters

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By Ellie Dessart

Ellie Dessart

The days are growing colder, the sun sets early and we have already witnessed some snow waltzing around in the leaden sky. As the great Eddard Stark of “Game of Thrones” would say, “Winter is coming!”

But more importantly, it’s sweater weather (cue The Neighbourhood’s song). Ugly holiday sweaters were first introduced in the 1950s as “Jingle Bell Sweaters.” They gained popularity in the ‘80s, and by the early 2000s, Canadians Chris Boyd and Jordan Birch supposedly held the first ugly Christmas sweater party. The party has been hosted as a fundraiser at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver every year since, with the proceeds going toward the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Talk about festive spirit!

These types of sweaters, ironically, have become a commercial holiday staple. From the tacky to the tasteful, the minimal to the extravagant, there’s something for everyone. For the adventurous souls who are eager to try something new this year, here’s a guide for pulling off a successful ugly sweater:

Go vintage…or go to Target?

The traditional look is an oversized, wooly garment with questionable patterns and colors. Naturally, because the first designs in the ‘80s and ‘90s were hand-knitted, vintage stores are a great place to start looking for one. As the demand for these sweaters grew, thanks to the internet and pop culture, larger retailers began mass producing them, too. Luckily for us, that means we have a variety of places to shop. Whether you’re searching for a muted, old-school, hippie look or more of a colorful, contemporary piece, you’re bound to find something.

Get creative

The bolder the better. Don’t be afraid to select sweaters with over-the-top embellishments – lit up menorahs, large depictions of elves, fuzzy snowmen, the works. There are absolutely no limits. Can’t find something you like? Make it yourself. You can first buy a sweater of the desired color and material. Afterwards, experiment with a few different stores, such as Michael’s, CVS or Dollar Tree. Create your own humorous slogan with iron-on letters. Glue on some tinsel. Attach jingle bells, dreidels or ornaments. Whatever your heart desires!

An extension of your personality

The best thing about holiday sweaters is that the possibilities are endless. Ultimately, the one you wear was created or chosen for a reason. Perhaps you enjoyed the velvety stomach of the penguin. Maybe you were amused by the comical representation of Santa. Whatever it was that drew you, the final look reflects a bit of you. To truly go above and beyond, pair your sweater with something. Accessories are another component that can say a lot about the type of person you are. My personal favorite is festive holiday socks.

Create a tradition and have some fun

My family bought ugly Christmas sweaters in 2017 for a holiday party. One of my sisters and I ended up selecting matching black ones, each adorned with a fuzzy reindeer and a large, red, pom-pom nose. Although intended for that single party, I’ve worn this sweater each year since on the final school day before break. (This year, it happens to fall on National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day – perfect timing!) Feel free to make your own tradition, too. Yes, you may find yourself embarrassed at first. None of us are judging you. Own the look. Flaunt it like it’s the new haute couture.

By this time of the year, you’re probably drained from the copious amounts of stress, work and challenges the previous months brought. Let yourself relax. Laugh a little. What better way to do so than by dressing up in a ridiculous holiday sweater?

Ellie Dessart is a senior at Bronxville High School. Her monthly column “Inside the Mind of a Teen” examines and addresses the issues pertaining to teenagers at both the local and global level.


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