Tacky But Tasteful: The Rise & Rise of the Christmas Jumper

December 15, 2016 Paul

Will you be the amongst the one in five Brits who will don a Christmas jumper on the big day this year?

Their popularity is unrelenting, according to ASDA, who are anticipating sales of festive woolies reaching some 600K this year alone. But when did this silliness all begin and is it here to stay?

Scandinavian Starters

As if hygge weren’t enough, it looks like we also have the Scandinavians to thank for the Christmas jumper trend too.

The geometrical designs and Fair Isle patterns were favoured by fishermen, although for a somewhat unfestive reason. It’s believed that each fisherman had a pattern unique to them so that if they were ever lost at sea, they could be identified by their jumper, even if little else remained of them.

Skandinavian fishermen

The bright colours and patterns of warm woolly jumpers were then adopted by the skiing fraternity and popularised in the 50s and 60s by American stars such as Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman.

Three skiers

Big Knits In The 60s

Knitwear continued its rise to fame and was a fashion favourite for advertisers to use in their campaigns throughout the 60s. Jumpers became increasingly associated with the Festive Season and, by the 70s, were officially recognised as a Christmas icon along with reindeer, Santa and snowmen.

Val Doonican
The Val Doonican Show (Show of the Week) VAL DOONICAN 1969 69/BBC/V 53 (C) BBC PHOTO Al Ferdman

Crooners like Andy Williams and Val Doonican added to their popularity by donning gaudy knits on their Christmas television specials.

Andy Williams at Christmas

Comedian Bill Cosby continued the trend, although he was renowned for wearing ugly jumpers all-year-round on his popular TV show.

The Cosby Show
THE COSBY SHOW — Pictured: Bill Cosby as Dr. Heathcliff ‘Cliff’ Huxtable (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

And good old Giles Brandreth also contributed, in a small way to the fad for outrageous knitwear.

Gyles Brandreth Christmas Jumper

Anything Goes

But it has been the last two decades that have witnessed the jumper craze transition to its comically fanatical levels, helped along by Colin Firth’s character in the screen version of Bridget Jone’s Diary.

Bridget Jones jumper

Since then, the race has been on to find the silliest, ugliest, most interactive jumper each-and-every year. We’ve even spotted the world’s first edible Christmas jumper – though you’d have to be careful about who wore that before you chomped through it!

In the States, there are ugly Christmas jumper parties with prizes on offer for those people attending wearing the most ridiculous attire. Entire businesses have been set up on the premise of the outrageous seasonal jumper demand too.

Ugly christmas sweaters

In 2012, the Christmas jumper achieved charity status and 14th December has now been designated Christmas jumper day, with people all across the UK donning their best (or worst) jumpers in return for making a donation to the charity.

Over a million people are expected to take part this year, including a host of celebrities of sorts – you can find out more by visiting https://christmasjumperday.org/.

Save the Children Christmas Jumper Charity

So don’t be shy about wearing your jumper this year and be especially grateful if your grandma has actually knitted you one. Vintage stores and charity shops cry out for them and you can always sell it on Ebay for a small fortune.

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