It’s ugly out there, and we like it

Derrick Knutson

Derrick Knutson

I’m now the owner of a sweater adorned with an ice-skating, Santa-hat-wearing penguin.

The sweater is tight, a tad itchy and it rides up on my neck.

But I think it’s splendid and I was elated when I found it in the Family Pathways thrift store in Cambridge.

When the woman running the register asked if the sweater was for me when I brought it up to her, I confidently said, “Yes, yes it is.”

We then began to chat about a fairly recent fad: the ugly sweater Christmas party.

I’d attended one about five years ago, but hadn’t been to one since then, until this year.

I went to a work party that had the theme, and I was invited to another party that was organized to showcase profoundly hideous Christmas clothing.

That got me thinking about when unsightly Christmas sweater parties first started.

I did a little Internet research in an attempt to find an answer to this question, and came across a Washington Post article that purports the sarcastic parties first came into being around 2001, in Vancouver.

However, “the world will never be sure who held the first ugly sweater party,” according to the article.

To whoever came up with the idea, I salute you.

There is now a reason to hold onto that disgusting reindeer sweater your grandma spent many hours knitting for you.

According to the thrift store merchants—I had to visit three such stores before I found two sweaters for my wife and me in Cambridge—the less-than-fashionable sweaters sell like hotcakes.

They told me there really aren’t a whole lot of them in the stores because of the parties, and people “tend to hold onto them.”

Due to the popularity of ugly Christmas sweaters, I began to wonder if someone was trying to capitalize on the trend.

There’s more than someone.

There are multiple websites that sell gaudy Christmas gear.

On one site I browsed, all the sweaters retail for $32.

For people like me who don’t have a whole lot of spare cash to throw around, $32 is kind of a lot to spend on a whimsical Christmas sweater.

Plus, to me, buying one from a website that makes them brand new is kind of cheating.

Part of the enjoyment in the pre-party hunt is finding a disgusting sweater someone hated enough to give away.

Finding one on the Internet designed to be gaudy is just plain lazy.

There’s much more enjoyment in stopping by thrift stores and picking through holiday-themed sweaters that smell like cigarette smoke, cats and mothballs.

The feeling I get the moment I find a sweater that looks like Christmas threw up on it is one of pure euphoria.

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