The Ugly Christmas Sweater

Who invented bad taste?

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Bellis, Mary. "The Ugly Christmas Sweater." ThoughtCo, Mar. 16, 2017, Bellis, Mary. (2017, March 16). The Ugly Christmas Sweater. Retrieved from Bellis, Mary. "The Ugly Christmas Sweater." ThoughtCo. (accessed October 18, 2017).
Is It Better To Give Or Receive An Ugly Christmas Sweater?
Is It Better To Give Or Receive An Ugly Christmas Sweater?. Scott Kleinman/Getty Images

The definition of an "ugly Christmas sweater" is any sweater with a Christmas theme that is considered in bad taste, tacky, or gaudy. While what is in bad taste is debatable, general consensus says that more is uglier, more embellishments, more tinsel, and more Christmas themed decorations attached to the sweater.

We really can't say who invented the first ugly Christmas sweater. Since Christmas, sweaters, and Christmas sweaters have been around for awhile.

As a matter of fact, we can presume that ugly sweaters were designed with the original intention of being attractive. It's only our judgmental and ever-changing sense of fashion that makes us deem once-considered pretty sweaters as ugly.

So Who Invented The Trend of Ugly Sweaters?

According to the Urban Dictionary, a "Cosby sweater" is an oversized, hideous looking sweater with ugly patterns and colors, often worn by old men or hipsters with no taste, and named after the actor/comedian Bill Cosby who wore a lot of ugly sweater while acting on his highly successful 1980's sitcom "The Cosby Show".

The Urban Dictionary gives us another clue as to the origin of the ugly sweater. They state that the sweaters worn on the Bill Crosby show were designed by KOOS VAN DEN AKKER, a NYC designer who is famous for his wild collaged garments. Koos also has the honor of being the only designer to sell over one million dollars in merchandise in one hour on QVC, the television shopping network.

Koos and Bill Cosby would understandably both not want to accept the credit for being the inventors of the ugly sweater. My research has indicated that Christmas sweaters first started being mass manufactured under the name of "jingle bell sweaters" during the eighties and no one wants to take the credit for inventing them.

Ironic Ugly Christmas Sweater Parties

Perhaps it would be better to ask ourselves, "Which came first, the sweater or the ugly?" According to Time Magazine there has been a revival among young people throwing ugly Christmas sweater parties, where they make fun of their parents who loved the festive looks and thought the sweaters were cute.

The city of Vancouver, Canada claims to be the birthplace of the first ugly sweater party in 2002. Every year at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver a party is held and the dress code is an ugly sweater affair. Chris Boyd and Jordan Birch, are the co-founders of the Commodore's annual ugly sweater party. The pair have even trademarked the word marks, "ugly Christmas sweater" and "ugly Christmas sweater party" in Canada.

The Business of Ugly

Even the Wall Street Journal has written about the ugly Christmas sweater and related parties since it has become a booming business. Retail stores say that the sale of Christmas sweaters has reached the same eighties highs. Corporations are sponsoring ugly Christmas sweater events. Tickets to ugly Christmas parties are selling out. Google reports that searches for "ugly Christmas sweater" is up thirty percent over last year.

Websites dedicated to the ugly Christmas sweater have spread across the internet. Vintage stores can't stock enough of them. Ebay has had record prices set on the sale of vintage Christmas sweaters, collectors are now willing to spend hundreds of dollars for these sweaters.

DIY Extra Ugly

So do not despair if you find yourself invited to a trendy ugly sweater party and your local store has sold out of ugly fashion. There is no better way to go that extra ugly mile then to recycle an old sweater and turn it into a do-it-yourself over-embellished masterpiece. And who knows, after the party you can try selling what you invented on Ebay.

    The History of Sweaters and Kitted Garments

    A sweater by definition is a knitted top, and knitted garments have been around a very long time. So the real answer to who invented the sweater is the same answer to "who invented knitting?"

    Knitting by definition is the process of using at least one, and usually two needles to loop or knot yarn together to create a garment or piece of fabric. It is believed that the oldest knitted garments were socks, however, since knitting did not require a large piece of equipment like a loom, it has been hard to trace the exact history of knitted garments. Historians have had to rely on the remnants of knitted garments that have remained and given the fragile nature of fabrics, few have.

    Nailbindning & Dura-Europos Fragment

    A precursor to knitting, was a craft called "nalbindning', a one needle form of knitting that was much more difficult to execute. In fact, nailbindning did not become a commonplace craft because it was so difficult. The first example of a knitted garment, a fragment of stocking, was made by this method and dates back thousands of years, found by archeologists, in the Indus River Valley. Called the Dura-Europos fragment, it is considered by many to be the oldest fragment of knitting in existence.

    The Coptic Socks

    The first example of a garment made by the two needle form of knitting, that we are familiar with today, are the fragments and whole Egyptian "coptic socks" that date back to 1000 CE. Many examples have been found by archeologists. The socks were made from white and blue dyed cotton, and had symbolic patterns woven into them called Khufic, that were intended to protect the wearer.

    The Cardigan Sweater

    The cardigan sweater was named after the seventh Earl of Cardigan, James Thomas Brudenell. Brudenell was a military captain who led his troops at The Charge of the Light Brigade into the Valley of Death. Brudenell's troops were outfitted in knitted military jackets nicknamed cardigans.

    mla apa chicago
    Your Citation
    Bellis, Mary. "The Ugly Christmas Sweater." ThoughtCo, Mar. 16, 2017, Bellis, Mary. (2017, March 16). The Ugly Christmas Sweater. Retrieved from Bellis, Mary. "The Ugly Christmas Sweater." ThoughtCo. (accessed October 18, 2017).