My collection started in sin. I was at a Friendsgiving party at Northeastern a school I stayed at every weekend but did not attend. A friend of a friend had on this white, poorly made, way too small for me, holes in the elbows, kitschy as all hell Christmas sweater on.
She said she found it in her grandmother’s attic and thought it was cute. I agreed that it was cute and by the end of the night I stole it from her. And I wore it a lot.
I fell in love with the comfort of the sweaters, as they were made for active older women. I fell in love with their beauty, but “beauty” in the way people say I’m attractive. It’s not because it’s pleasing to the eye but more because its just interesting enough to not be the status quo.
I fell in love with the attention. I only had two or three but when I wore them I got the laughs, stares, groans, and insults desired.
This was my thing. And it was my thing before it became another winking, in the zeitgeist, commercially-riddled burden. The sweaters I bought and own were made out of love by some long-forgotten company for a kindergarten teacher, librarian, grandmother or mother looking to spread her holiday cheer in her own tasteless way. This was my thing because it wasn’t a thing. This was my thing because it was mine. This was my thing because people appreciated and accepted its weirdness.
In three years I had 12 sweaters. In five I had 20. In seven I had 25. I now have 31. I have 31 ugly Christmas sweaters. Some I’ve had from the very beginning, owned and stored since 2008. All in all I think I’ve had 45. I have lost some: one to a giant coffee stain that I couldn’t resolve and another to my dad lending it to a friend never to be seen again. Others I have gifted away or traded for. Some I swear my mother was successful in throwing out. And one I even traded for some art! Some I have straight up given away, either because they won’t fit, but mostly because some people don’t understand my guidelines. Some people, in my eyes, have given my literal garbage.
I know as you read the line “literal garbage” you are thinking either the Twilight series or clothes that are unwearable. It is the latter. But they didn’t have stains or holes. These had no charm. Either they were a corporate sweater, I got one from Manchester City Football Club (THE MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR SPORTS FRANCHISE) or made in 2016 and gifted to me in 2016 and was created by a focus group about “controlled fun.” I get tagged year-round in photos on social media of ads for Christmas sweaters. But all of them have no authenticity.
I get it, you hear a 30-year-old cis-white male say “authenticity” and you want to throw up. I’m not talking about sound quality from Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” on 1960 vinyl as opposed to 2017 vinyl. I just mean that the sweaters I have were made because whoever designed them believed them to be worth it. The toiled over bell and snowman placement. They drew and re-drew samples. They picked out swatches, they decided on different patches. They had to figure if it should be “currant” red or “crimson” red. They had a prototype made, pitched it to a clothing company that company in turn contacted their manufacturer and had thousands made. The gifts and ads and brand new ones on the rack in stores now were made with the corporate directive of, “make an ugly Christmas sweater.” The work and obliviousness of the ugly is what sold me on these.
I don’t want your Gremlins-themed Christmas sweater, I don’t want your full suit of “ugly Christmas design.” I want a hug, wrapped in joy, in a partridge in a pear tree of a sweater. I want Santa’s cookie crumbs on it, I want an elf to have knit it, I want a reindeer poop skid mark!
So I wrote this to talk to you about my collection and I have. Pictures of me in these sweaters will be on Instagram at #25UglyXMas please follow and share. In a time of cynicism and animosity, why not have a 31 year old male be your walking/talking advent calendar?
HAPPY HOLIDAYS everyone!!