For the love of the ugly christmas sweater

As the lights of the store hit the tinsel, bells, and lights, I found myself enthralled with the decor that surrounded me. The enthrallment did not stem from the twinkle that bounced off the decorations, rather, it came from the fact that these decorations were on sweaters.

From where ugly Christmas sweaters started to where they are today, the journey has allowed for these garments to make their way into mainstream stores. According to Time, this trend has been present in the United States since the late 19th century. While the holidays were becoming increasingly commercialized in the 1950s, this is when production of Christmas sweaters took off.

Though it has been around for some time, it was not until the last several decades that society has taken this tradition and put their own spin on it.  

While this trend took off, ugly sweater parties started to become a tradition as well around 2001 as stated in Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book. Once ugly sweater parties became a hit, industries took this trend and expanded it. Recently, I have found the Christmas sweater trend to have made its way into the cooking industry.

The grocery store, Trader Joe’s now sells ugly sweater cookie kits in their stores. From personal experience, I have seen these kits at various Christmas parties over the past couple of years. The trend has reached popularity within all age groups.

Though this industry has grown in a way nobody had expected, the question that continues to burn is why. Why does society have an endless love for an ugly Christmas sweater?

For some, this has become a mission for themselves; when the holidays roll around, they are on the hunt to find the worse sweater for sale. For others, shopping and buying a holiday sweater gets them in the mood. But regardless of the drive, the underlying influence stems from media influence amongst society.

Ugly Christmas Sweater at Target. Photo by Claudia Johnson

The influence started with ‘80s television then transitioned into Christmas movies. Today, this influence comes from social media.

University of Arizona student Jacklyn Narducci said she has always had a love for ugly Christmas sweaters but since these garments have become more popular, she has found that the designs have gotten cuter. This new modern twist on the designs have increased her love for these sweaters, even more, Narducci said.

“I follow many influencers on both Youtube and Instagram,” Narducci said. When they link their clothes or shoot vlogs in stores, she finds this type of content to be helpful since they review which places to go in order to get the best Christmas outfits Narducci said.

Though Influencers constantly provide links to new stores, Narducci said they consistently shop at Target.

“I find vlogs not only fun to watch but these videos, in a way, are like a preview since they show me what stores have,” Narducci said. “Through the videos, I have found that Target is their go-to store since they sell cute and interactive Christmas sweaters in comparison to thrift stores.”

Target Sales Associate Manager Jade Reed said during her time at Target, she has found there be an increased stock of Christmas sweaters. The popularity the store has gained through social media has allowed Target to market and buy products accordingly.

“I think social media greatly influence this change,” Reed said. “Target wants to be in the loop and know what is popular so people can buy their products.”

Target has found a way to meet the product demands being made by customers, while also including people of all ages and genders within this trend too. She said there is no specific age demographic who are buying ugly Christmas sweaters.

“They are a fun and affordable way to be festive and everyone at all ages can join in on the fun,” Reed said.

A garment that was once seen as being for old people is now a garment worn amongst people of all ages. The holiday spirit that comes from this new tradition is now the thread that is woven within ugly Christmas sweaters. This garment has become a staple for the holiday season and is the reason why this a tradition no one is ready to let go of just yet.

Claudia Johnson a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at

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