Over the past few years, the Christmas jumper has become a staple of our Yuletide celebrations. It’s just part of the season, the same as putting up the Christmas tree, getting tangled up in twinkling lights, and leaving cookies and milk out for Santa on Christmas Eve. A decade ago no one in their right mind would allow themselves to be seen in an ugly Christmas sweater, apart from those being suitably and amusingly (sort of) ironic. Today, however, putting buying a Christmas jumper on your ‘to do’ is a must. What has happened to make these items of clothing so important to us in the 21st century?
What Is It?
Before we can delve into the whys, we should look at the whats. Just what are Christmas jumpers (or Christmas t shirts if you prefer – many people find sweaters far too warm in a nice, centrally heated house, or in front of a roaring log fire)? Christmas jumpers used to be simply a knitted jumper that was given – usually by an elderly relative to a much younger one – at Christmas (remember Colin Firth’s Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones’ Diary being given a rather ugly Christmas jumper by his mother?). They were gently mocked for being unfashionable and uncomfortable, and have certainly been around since the 19th century in America, if not in the UK and Europe. They became more popular in the UK during the 1980s thanks to the celebrities of the time (Timmy Mallett and Gyles Brandreth, for example) wearing them on TV. People wore them to be funny, rather than because they had been gifted. However, by the early 1990s, they had fallen out of favour once more.
When Did They Return?
Back in 2012, the Daily Telegraph ran a feature on Christmas jumpers, declaring that they were the ‘must have’ accessory of the season. At the same time, Topman put 34 different designs up for sale in their stores, and sales were up 54 percent compared to 2011. Therefore, the year 2012 can be seen as the beginning of the re-emergence of the Christmas jumper ‘fashion’ statement that we all know and love. However, since around 2001, these sweaters have been more readily available in shops and online. At that time, of course, there weren’t so many new ones on the market, and they were often found instead in charity shops and second-hand stores.
Part of The Fun
Today, there are often Christmas jumper themed events and competitions running through the festive period. Some are nationwide, such as the Christmas Jumper Day run by the charity Save the Children. It began in 2012, when the national sweep of Christmas jumpers began. Each year they ask people to ‘make the world better in a sweater’, and for those wearing their Christmas jumpers to donate to the cause. Christmas Jumper Day 2017 takes places on Friday 15th December.
As well as this large event, which raises many thousands of pounds for a good cause, people run their own Christmas jumper competitions at work, or amongst friends. It can be anything from best homemade sweater (take a plain sweater and jazz it up with glitter, tinsel, baubles or anything else you can think of!) to ugliest Christmas jumper (it’s a lot of fun looking for the most garish top you can find, and there are plenty to choose from).
Christmas jumpers don’t have to be ugly, though. Some can be lovely and traditional, or classy and simple. This turn of events has been helped by the big fashion gurus who have incorporated the idea of a simple, classical Christmas jumper into their runway shows. Companies such as Fair Isle who produce gorgeous knitted wear have a definite idea when it comes to the Christmas season, for example.
There are many different types of Christmas jumper. Some can be rude (in a gentle, teasing kind of way). Some even have room for a wine bottle if you want to carry one around with you! Whether you like something deliberately ugly, something amusing, or something classic and beautiful, there will be a Christmas jumper, t shirt, even onesie for you.
Will It Last?
The Christmas tradition of a festively themed jumper has waxed and waned in popularity over the years, but it’s never entirely disappeared. It’s likely that there will be Christmas jumpers around for many years to come, but in what form and in what context they are worn it will remain to be seen!
A few of my favourite Christmas jumpers this year: