Once upon a time, you thought you were the only person who had to endure wearing a Christmas sweater that was too cheesy to be cool. It was even worse when that sweater was an actual Christmas gift, meaning you had to act grateful for it, but at least the next day you could put off wearing it for a year. Eventually we learned that was a shared experience, and the culture of the Ugly Christmas Sweater was born. But let's go back to the beginning, in the 1950s.
As America was settling into its post-war suburbia phase, the commercialization of Christmas manifested itself in new and exciting ways. One of these was the now-infamous Christmas sweater. While they’d been around in some form since the late 19th century, what were then known as ‘Jingle Bell Sweaters’ were practically a required uniform for fathers of the era as they gathered their family to go caroling, opened presents on Christmas morning, or partake in some similarly idyllic, Rockwellian fantasy.
While this particular incarnation would be considered subdued by many of today’s standards, perhaps the strangest part was there wasn’t a shred of irony in these early incarnations of holiday-themed apparel. Partly because they were seen as legitimately fun and festive attire that was almost a prerequisite for holiday merriment, and partly because irony had yet to be invented.*
Read the history of the ugly Christmas sweater and its evolution from embarrassment to ironic joke at Uproxx.
(Image credit: Jansport)