Every third Friday of December, Americans don the tackiest Christmas sweaters in honor of Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. Once regarded as an unwanted present from that pushy aunt, Christmas sweaters have gained prominence and become permanently intertwined with modern Christmastime celebrations.
“Ugly” Christmas sweaters are often gaudy, outlandish, colorful, and fun. Jeremy Turner, the former owner of Ugly Christmas Shop, told The Dallas Express that the best ones have bells, ornaments, and lights and often reflect a person’s personality.
“If you like cats, find a cat-themed Christmas sweater,” Turner explained.
He said his favorite ugly Christmas sweater is a dark green Santa with googly eyes, which reflects his “exuberance.”
Christmas sweaters originated in the 1950s and coincided with the commercialization of Christmas celebrations. The sweaters were originally called “jingle bell sweaters” and were somewhat subdued compared to what qualifies as an ugly Christmas sweater today.
It was not until the 1980s that Christmas sweaters gained massive popularity, due in no small part to Chevy Chase’s character in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. However, they quickly fell out of favor and were considered incredibly tacky by the “sophisticates” of the 1990s.
In 2002, the perception of the ugly Christmas sweater began to change from a tacky item to the perfect Christmas party outfit when Chris Boyd, a Canadian nursing home worker, noticed how residents wore these sweaters around the holiday.
“I would say up to 60, 70, 80% of the grandmothers [living in the retirement home] were wearing these sweaters,” Boyd told Huff Post.” I would compliment them: ‘Wow, that’s an amazing sweater.’ In the back of my mind, I was thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be kind of fun to track one of these down?'”
After finding the tackiest sweaters, he held a sweater-themed Christmas party that grew in size every year. Slowly, the annual Christmas sweater parties morphed from a friendly holiday get-together into a Christmas sweater gala at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, which has a capacity of 990.
Today, ugly Christmas sweater shindigs can be found all over Dallas-Fort Worth — from simple contests to elaborate, feel-good parties.
Turner’s Ugly Christmas Sweater Shop, which once had four seasonal locations, is no longer in business following its closure during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Turner still has an impressive collection of vintage sweaters and takes nostalgia seriously.
“For me, Christmas sweaters are a way to remember old teachers or other bits from your childhood,” Turner remarked. “Christmas itself is such a nostalgic holiday.”
Nowadays, Turner focuses on creating immersive Airbnbs. He has four locations that transport guests back to their childhoods. One of them gives guests a Home Alone experience. There is a model train with a Michael Jordan cutout circling the window, paint can trap, and cheese pizza for dinner. However, this location, called “The Kevin,” is in its final season.