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The sartorial evolution of the tacky Christmas jumper

The sartorial evolution of the tacky Christmas jumper
From Bridget Jones to high fashion collections, this Christmas Jumper Day Saman Javed explores the curious case of the ever-changing festive sweatshirt

e all remember that scene from Bridget Jones’s Diary. 这 one where she’s ushered over to meet Mark Darcy, who appears, from behind, to be a very worthy suitor until he turns around and expectations are managed, for there is a large reindeer on his jumper. 电影, released in 2001, is one of the most notable examples of a Christmas jumper on screen. Then of course there was The OC in which Seth Cohen also adorns himself with reindeer when he introduces Ryan to his self-concocted festive celebration: Chrismukkah.

But ahead of its appearance in dramas and romcoms, the Christmas jumper was already being popularised by television hosts before the early 2000s. British presenter Gyles Brandreth wore dozens of designs during the 1980s, while American singer Andy Williams was rocking them as early as the 1970s. Most recently, the Christmas jumper has even been adopted by the Natural History Museum, which announced this week that its famous tyrannosaurus Rex has been fitted with a giant sweater of its own. The navy blue, 红色的, green and white design covers the upper part of the dinosaur’s torso and even its little arms.

They were always very tacky. It was always like your grandma made you one for Christmas, but you didn’t really want to wear it

Cheryl Madley, knitwear designer

While the garment has become synonymous with the festive season, according to knitwear designer Cheryl Madley, the Christmas jumper originated from traditional Icelandic knitwear made for the country’s fishermen. “Every one was different so that if there was an accident at sea, they could tell which fisherman it was because of his sweater,“ 她说. Madley, who has been designing since the 1980s recalls studying Scandinavian jumpers which were made from thick wool and bore patterns of snowflakes and geometric shapes – similar to the Fair Isle designs seen on the market today.

After Christmas jumpers first started appearing on US television screens – they were a firm favourite of Bill Cosby on The Cosby Show in the 1980s – they quickly took off across the country. Here in the UK, it took some adjusting. “They were always very tacky. It was always like your grandma made you one for Christmas, but you didn’t really want to wear it,” Madley says. While we all shared Bridget Jones’s horror, the consensus shifted from style faux-pas to indie ironic right through to fashion-industry approved in 2007 when the Christmas jumper met the catwalk. Stella McCartney’s autumn/winter ‘07 collection included a grey knit dress featuring white polar bears, while Dolce & Gabbana sent one of its models down its autumn/winter 2010 runway in a full knit bodysuit covered in reindeer and snowflakes. Also that year, Riccardo Tisci debuted an autumn/winter collection for Givenchy featuring a number of snowflake-patterned prints. 当时, the designer told 时尚 he had been inspired by the ski world.

But the Christmas jumper’s affair with fashion’s elite proved to be short-lived. 在 2012, Save The Children started a new annual event called “Christmas Jumper Day”. Every year, people across the UK are encouraged to put on their best Christmas jumper and donate £2 to the charity. This was followed by the adoption of Christmas jumper parties by workplaces across the country, where employees are asked to wear their best festive number. It was around this time that the Christmas jumper suffered the unfortunate fate of going from being an accepted part of our December wardrobes, to a novelty item worn sparingly in a “so-hideous-it’s-funny” kind of way. As Brian Miller, an author of Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book: The Definitive Guide to Getting Your Ugly On, put it in an interview with 美国有线电视新闻网 在 2019: “It became our generation’s mistletoe. The moment someone wore the garment in a humorous way, people started seeing the comic side of it.”

The luxury jumpers on the market today are made from expensive materials, but there’s not that much difference between them [and those on the high street]

Natascha Radclyffe-Thomas, professor of marketing and sustainable business, Business School of Fashion

今天, Christmas jumpers are largely regarded as a novelty item that brings holiday cheer as opposed to a sartorial style statement. “It’s a form of nostalgia,” Madley explains. “Wearing a Christmas jumper is a comforting experience. It makes you think of roaring fires, Christmas songs, chestnuts roasting, that kind of thing.” Natascha Radclyffe-Thomas, a professor in marketing and sustainable business at the Business School of Fashion, says the Christmas jumper’s current status is not surprising, given that it was never a “high culture artifact”. “It came from novelty. The luxury jumpers on the market today are made from expensive materials, but there’s not that much difference between them [and those on the high street],“ 她说. Just one example is this creation from Dolce & Gabbana, which retails for more than £1,000.

But while the days of earnestly wearing glittering, garish Christmas jumpers are a thing of the past – thanks to an overkill of the market that even saw McDonald’s and Gregg’s release their own versions (sounding the death knell for any semblance of cool), “well-made, spangly or traditional wool sweaters still have plenty of retro appeal, especially if they’re homespun Fair Isle or Arran-style knits”, says Lauren Bravo, author of How to Break Up With Fast Fashion.

One potential negative consequence of annual events like Christmas Jumper Day or Christmas jumper work parties is that the novelty one-hit-wonder aspect could encourage waste. 在 2019, environmental charity Hubbub reported that up to 95 per cent of Christmas jumpers are made using plastic. A survey of 3,000 adults also found that one in three people under the age of 35 buy a new one every year, while two fifths of jumpers are only worn once. To avoid adding to the problem, stylist Miranda Holder says that unless a Christmas jumper is being worn for maximum irony, consumers should consider a “tasteful, pared down version”. “I personally recommend my clients shy away from anything that has a limited opportunity for wear, as every piece should earn its place in your wardrobe and therefore be able to be worn in a multitude of ways at several different occasions.”

Meet the Christmas jumper fanatics

Adam Attew, 32, from London: Owns 125 Christmas jumpers

Adam Attew models some of his collection

Attew accumulated his collection after he decided to create his own advent calendar in 2016, which saw him wear a different jumper every day of December.

While he accepts that his habit may seem excessive, he says the jumpers bring him immense enjoyment.

“I feel so Christmassy wearing them. And I get lots of attention from them, and I know they bring joy to other people as well. They remind me of being cosy and warm, next to a fireplace with a hot chocolate”, he says.

Janet Stevenson, 54, Strood: A Christmas jumper for every day of December

Janet Stevenson wears one of her jumpers

Stevenson has built up her collection of 28 jumpers in the last seven years. Like Attew, she is wearing a new Christmas jumper for almost every day of December this year. “I love the reaction I get from everyone. It’s a bit of lighthearted cheer,“ 她说.

Janet’s full collection

Graham Smith, 43, 萨默塞特: A Christmas jumper collection worth £700

Graham Smith wearing his favourite Christmas jumper

Smith says his wife would not be happy to learn that he has spent more than £700 on his Christmas jumper collection to date.

His favourite jumper is inspired by The Punisher TV series, which he insists is festive because although it is black, and has a skull on it, it is knitted and “there’s Christmas stuff in the background”.

“My wife shakes her head and tries to avoid me, but my kids love the Pokémon one,“ 他说. “It puts a smile on my face, but it also brings enjoyment to other people who have messaged me saying they love looking at the pictures of my collection.”

Linda Shelley, 53, Croydon: A charitable obsession

Linda Shelley models one of her favourite jumpers

今年, Shelley is wearing a different jumper every day until Christmas to raise money for Stepping Stone Cat Rescue – a local animal charity. She currently has around 25 jumpers in her collection.

Shelley says she loves the festive designs, and making other people smile.

“I fell in love with Christmas jumpers straight away. There’s such a variety, and so many different ones to choose from every year.”