The ugly Christmas sweater has come a long way, but not necessarily for the better.
No longer an embarrassing gift from a well-meaning but aesthetically challenged relative, it’s now something many people choose to buy as a source of irreverent holiday cheer. You can purchase an ugly Christmas sweater that shows Santa using a chimney as a commode, a sweater with Taylor Swift’s face, or a sweater featuring a beer-slinging snowman. If you’re feeling fancy, you can clean up in an ugly Christmas two-piece suit.
Before they were commoditized, however, ugly Christmas sweaters were something to be endured. Think Mark Darcy glowering at Bridget Jones in a reindeer jumper or the Weasley children tugging at their custom-initialed homespun sets. Today, tacky knitwear is just another mass-produced trend, albeit with caroling kittens and three-dimensional T-rexes.
As with most novelty items, they’re also terrible for the planet. Hubbub, a London-based nonprofit, calls ugly Christmas sweaters “one of the worst examples of fast fashion.” Most of them are derived from plastic, it says, and 40 percent of Britons wear them only once. Yet people can’t get enough of them. Hubbub estimates that U.K. shoppers will purchase roughly 12 million sweaters this year, despite owning some 65 million from Christmases past.