The Art of the Ugly Christmas Sweater

The ugly Christmas sweater, once a serious medium in our parents’ day, fell out of favor in the nineties only to reemerge as an ironic festive fashion trend in the past several years. Mastering the art of the ugly, however, is a difficult balance — one that requires a certain self-confidence and  a total abandonment of many of one’s fast-held fashion principles. The key is to find the one — the ugly Christmas jumper that will proudly resurface in your wardrobe every year, one whose total lack of timelessness makes it, well, timeless. The temptation is to start an online hunt or take to the High Street chains stores, but let me advise you to proceed with caution, dear reader, and consider your other options.

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For starters, take this stock of jumpers on display — for eighteen pounds each, no less — at H&M. I’m not one to besmirch Christmas puns (see below), but they fall flat when they appear half-heartedly sequinned on an otherwise normally-fitting jumper. There’s no originality here, and the only inherent ugliness to be found is in the obscenities of H&M’s environmentally unfriendly practices, which compel you to purchase from their newest output of Christmas jumpers every single year. If you trek down to H&M at the last minute, I guarantee you you’ll end up with the same cutesy nonsense as every other girl in town, something that reeks of synthetic fabric and will fall apart in your washer long before the new year. And you, as a conscious Concrete Catwalk reader, are better than that.

So, what to do instead? Not to once again plug the charity shops, but, seriously, take advantage of them, especially if you’re opting for a more retro take. If someone’s donated them, it already means they’ve been deemed ugly to some degree. Beyond secondhand shopping, see what you already have at home. Dig around in your mom’s old stuff. Arm yourself with an old red or green jumper, some supplies from the craft store, and a hot glue gun and make your own, even. The possibilities for hideosity are endless.

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My own personal take on the ugly Christmas sweater is what I term an eighties mom spin: an oversized bright red button-down vest with a decal of an adorable dog and the cheesiest pun – bah hum pug! – embroidered it. The oversized fit with this little denim skirt gives it a slightly sexier feel, while the white button-down underneath offsets the informality of the shorter skirt and embraces the corniness. The vest form both contributes to the ugliness and yet also makes it easily adaptable to a variety of looks rather than resigning to the inevitable frumpiness of an oversized fit. One of my favorite features of this sweater is the font the embroidery is in; it looks like something your third grade teacher would use on a fun holiday-themed worksheet. And can anyone in their right mind resist the adorable head tilt of that pug decal? To me, this sweater has it all: versatility, bold color, a golden Christmas pun, and even an adorable pug snuggled in his own jumper. It’s fun, it’s cute, and, most importantly, it’s ugly.

So I say: the less cutesy, the better. The more cringey puns, the better. The more oversized, the more overwrought, the more of an eyesore, the better. There are so few instances in life where ugly dress is encouraged, so, for Christmas’s sake, own it.


Lauren Kammerdiener

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