The “Ugly Christmas Sweater Party” is a seasonal event at which youths bundle themselves in festive knitwear and compliment one another on their bravery in daring to look not-that-attractive. The parties surged in popularity in 2001, according to a 2011 book on the subject. They were pretty terrible all along. Now they are terrible in a new way.
The origins of the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party were practically anti-materialistic: The best Ugly Christmas Sweaters were cheaply purchased from thrift stores or retrieved from attics. It was a way to make fun of your cute/lame family, because you’re the only person who can make fun of your family. The act of parading about in an Ugly Christmas Sweater combined irony (can you believe someone actually wore this and now I’m wearing it?) and nostalgia (people used to be so earnest; wasn’t that nice?).
That was all bad enough, but this era has passed: Now, American retailers have monetized Ugly Christmas Sweaters.
At The Atlantic, Megan Garber catalogued the various ways that ugly sweaters are being sold and sold out. There are ugly NBA sweaters, retailing from $50 to $65, ugly Christmas suits for $79.99, and Nordstrom’s make-your-own-ugly-Christmas-sweater kit for $29. For presumed social-media leverage and an association with regulated fun, gyms are running promotions related to Ugly Christmas Sweaters and Dunkin’ Donuts offers gift cards to people who cozy up in heinous knits. To wear a sweater now is to pretend to do something boldly humiliating that has been fully embraced as a ritual punchline.
The sweaters are also, by every account, itchy as balls.