gotten one. Every northerner has. It likely was a holiday gift from mom or an aunt,
someone wishing that you keep warm and festive, thinking more about function
Later you wonder if they weren’t laughing
at the funny joke.
Remember unfolding the tissue paper in a
holiday gift box … there nestled was an awful blue or green sweater embellished
with a knit snowflake or a deer with a red nose?
Good golly, you thought, this thing is ugly!
You shoved that beast deep in the closet and
tip-toed off. An ugly sweater rates with such bad holiday gifts as diet
guides/weight scales, socks, snakes or a cat calendar.
About a decade ago, however, college kids
pulled these so-called ugly sweaters off vintage racks, celebrating them with
themed parties, honoring the tackiness, an oblique tribute to moms and their gift
given with love.
Now these ugly-sweater parties ride the
wave in Florida, says Ann Marie Blackman, founder of myuglychristmassweater.com
a web-based Vermont company that a decade ago harnessed the craze selling ugly
sweaters―Ellen DeGeneres verified Blackman’s intuition by staging an ugly
sweater fashion bit on her show. Blackman has re-positioned her dot-com as an
agent, directing us to other ugly apparel sellers, she says, which is profitable.
“Florida [is probably] a little late to the party because of the weather,” she
And it’s not just sweaters anymore,
Blackman says. Ugly holiday apparel today includes pant/jacket outfits,
dresses, vests, more comic book and movie characters, more flashing gizmos and home
decor, creativity miles beyond yesteryear, Blackman says. And much of the new
gear isn’t too pricey, $70-$100 for store/web stuff, far less for
do-it-yourselfers or vintage, she says. “Ugly” apparel is popular enough that
giant retailers are latching on, which impacts the quirk-factor, and the little
marketer’s pocketbook. “It’s just kind of unlimited,” Blackman says of what’s
going on in the ugly marketplace.
A memorable ugly-sweater party is easy.
There are innumerable dot-com listicles for how to dress or make outfits, tips
for fun invitations and decorations, themed meals, drinks and yummies, suggested
games, ugliest outfit awards and etc. The website Pinterest, for example, lists
party, contest, design and DIY tip ideas, literally a thousand ways for adding
quirk and excitement to the holidays. Blackman in the weeks ahead will log
15,000 or more unique daily visitors to her website. “I had up to 60,000 a day
in the past,” she adds. “It’s more funny and less vintage than it once was.”
Mark and Fred Hajjar run uglychristmassweater.com
in a Detroit suburb. The brothers had sold television-themed apparel and
Halloween costumes until targeting the ugly sweater craze about five years ago,
Mark Hajjar says. They first marketed resale items, but that quickly shifted,
and their dot-com this year sells 150 or so “ugly” styles and embellished
apparel, your design or theirs. The company will move tens of thousands of
pieces, Mark Hajjar says, noting a top-seller is a female elf in a bikini
hanging on a stripper’s (North) pole ($47.99), “or something edgy that Walmart
wouldn’t have,” he says. Other catalog gear reflects GenX takes on traditional holiday
themes―Santa, Rudolph, snowflakes and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The website uglychristmassweater.com
done well enough, in fact, that the Hajjars this year open a 30,000-square-foot
apparel plant in Commerce Township, another Detroit suburb. The firm is
customizing “ugly” and themed apparel for such giants as 5-Hour ENERGY and
Cheetos. “We feel blessed,” Mark Hajjar says.
Which is a beautiful thing.
Ugly Sweater Party
rule: holidays mean different things, so be inclusive and mindful.
invitations. Good ones set the tone.
contests, ballot boxes, these are critical. And the point of a themed party.
stories are great fun.
up wine-bottle labels and stemware.
bathrooms and guestrooms.
cookies (and jars), cakes and candies to share.
kooziewear is easy to make.
booths are great, an empty picture frame to hold works.
wrapping-paper walls add kitsch.
tree hair-braid/nail kits, face painting are kid-friendly fun.
plenty of festive lighting and music.
Written by Craig Garrett, Group
Editor-in-Chief for TOTI Media.