Christmas is getting ugly.
I’m not talking about the shopping riots on Black Friday, I’m talking Christmas sweaters.
If you happened to see lots of ugly sweaters around recently, there’s a reason: National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day is celebrated on the third Friday of December each year. In 2015, falling this year on Friday, Dec 18. This trend started several years back when people started recycling old sweaters from the 1980s and earlier. You know, the brightly-colored – usually red or green – sweaters with knitted snow, Santa, elf, reindeer, ski scenes often ornamented with 3-D baubles and bangles.
The trend shows no sign of unraveling (sorry).
On ABC’s Shark Tank reality series, investor Robert Herjavec invested in a start-up called Tipsy Elves that specialized in ugly sweaters. It has been one of his more successful investments, he says.
And now the phenomenon has moved beyond sweaters. Macy’s has introduced a line of suits from Dutch label, OppoSuits. The unique suits are brightly colored, sporting graphic prints of snowflakes, pine trees, snowmen, reindeer and holiday designs.
And they’re hideous. Or beautiful. Or cool. Or a fad.
Even the NFL is getting in on the act, with each team offering an ugly Christmas sweater for each team. For the Cowboys, it will match the team’s ugly season.
Fort Worth is not usually thought of as a fashion-forward town, but we’ve got our knitting needles in this trend.
Stacy Anderson opened the online TheUglySweaterShop.com six years ago in Fort Worth, right as the trend was crocheting its first stitch.
“I’ve been selling vintage clothing online since 2000, and around 2008-2009 I noticed people were buying some of the worst looking vintage sweaters,” she told me. “That is when I learned about ‘ugly sweater parties’ (which have since morphed into ugly Christmas sweater parties). I didn’t want to use the term ‘ugly’ at first, because the other vintage clothing I sell isn’t necessarily ugly, so in 2009 I spun the sweaters off onto their own webstore, where I could call them whatever I wanted.”
The website is a fun time waste even if you don’t buy anything. Looking for a Darth Vader wearing a Christmas scarf sweater? It’s there. Cats with laser beams coming from their eyes aimed at a Christmas tree? I’m serious, it’s there, too.
For Anderson, the trend may be peaking, particularly locally. “It was very slow to catch on in the DFW area – ugly sweater parties started around 2001 in Vancouver and caught on much quicker in colder weather locales. [This year] will be our first year in six where we have plateaued in sales versus increasing over the past year, and that I believe is due to the increase in availability of Christmas sweaters.”
When she started the website, ugly Christmas sweaters were hard to find, so she focused on pre-owned/vintage sweaters but now many companies are making sweaters purposefully “ugly.” On her site, sales are now split evenly between pre-owned and new – a change from past years, she says. Pre-owned/vintage sweaters do sell the fastest because “they are so unique and popular,” she notes.
But the trend may not be over – just morphing a bit – as technology is having an impact, she says. “LED light technology has come so far in recent years, I’ve been very impressed with some of the new sweaters that have color-changing flashing lights,” she says.
Companies like Digital Dudz have come up with ways to in-
corporate an iPhone into your Christmas sweater and offer sweaters with moving graphics like fireplaces and Rudolph’s nose.
And about that Darth Vader Christmas sweater? Just in time for the holidays and The Force Awakens, how could it miss?
“We completely sold out of that one quite a while back, and then got one more in stock so it is the last and final one we have. I expect it to be gone this weekend,” she says.
Robert Francis is editor of Fort Worth Business
THE UGLY SWEATER SHOP