Unraveling the History of Ugly Christmas Sweaters

Jennifer Anyabuine
4 Minutes Read

The first-ever ugly Christmas sweater party took place in Vancouver in 2002 and was hosted by Chris Boyd and Jordan Birch.

When it comes to Christmas sweaters, the more cluttered they look, the better. These are possibly the ugliest pieces of clothing, yet they’re such an integral part of celebrating the season.

All the holiday-themed designs, like snowflakes, candy canes, Santa, Christmas trees, and reindeer, compete for attention. And some take it a step further with bells that jiggle as you walk and hanging ornaments. It’s like you’re wearing a Christmas tree.

But here’s the interesting question: how do these tacky sweaters fit in with the elegantly wrapped presents and sophisticated trees?

Hang on and enjoy the ride as we trace the origins of these irresistibly ugly sweaters!

The genesis of ugly Christmas sweaters.

A simple Christmas pattern on some red material

We started seeing Christmas sweaters for the first time around the 1950s. But these were not like the jarring garments we wear sarcastically today.

These so-called “Jingle Bell Sweaters” were much more subtle in decoration.

The funny thing is these sweaters were not an immediate hit back then. It took some time for the public to adopt them. Eventually, Christmas sweaters blew up in the 1980s, taking over the streets and television.

When the 90s rolled around, no one wanted to have anything to do with these hideous garments. And slowly, they started disappearing from fashion.

The increasing popularity of ugly Christmas sweaters on TV.

Two ornate Christmas sweaters with reindeers on their front

From magazine covers to TV commercials, these festive sweaters have become symbolic of the Christmas season.

Many films and TV shows from the 80s, such as The Cosby Show, featured characters celebrating Christmas in these over-the-top garments.

These quirky sweaters also became the attire for holiday special programs, solidifying their place as the season’s statement piece.

Despite their popularity taking a significant hit in the 90s, they resurfaced in media in the new millennium, even bigger than before.

When Bridget Jones’ Diary was released in 2001, Darcy’s ugly sweater was all people would talk about. The giant reindeer sitting on his chest was hard to miss.

Even now, you’ll hardly see a holiday movie without these whimsical Christmas sweaters.

High fashion brands aren’t left out of the ugly sweater craze either. Dolce and Gabanna dropped their ugly Christmas sweater collection called so-ugly-it’s-beautiful sweaters in 2011.

When did ugly Christmas sweater parties start?

A group of friends wearing overly ornate Christmas sweaters toast with champagne

Chris Boyd and Jordan Birch are the brains behind the first ugly Christmas sweater party in 2002.

These guys in Vancouver, Canada just wanted to host a few friends for the holidays, but with a twist. To the 30 or so guests invited, they gave one instruction: come in your ugliest Christmas sweater.

The crowd didn’t disappoint, and the party was a hit. And just like that, what was supposed to be a simple gathering of friends birthed a new tradition.

The guys continued hosting ugly Christmas sweater parties in the following years, attracting even more guests. By the fourth year, they needed a bigger venue and moved the party to a bar at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby.

The party required even more space by Christmas time in the fifth year because the crowd kept growing. This time, it was held at Commodore, a massive ballroom in Vancouver. And that was the venue for ugly Christmas sweater parties for several years, hosting crowds of up to 1200 people.

Festive sweaters are central to celebrating the season.

Two people holding Christmas cookies while wearing bright, heavily decorated Christmas sweaters

Naturally, if you’re getting items for the Christmas season, like the tree, ornaments, and lights, you can’t forget the cozy sweaters.

These sweaters are not just to keep us warm but embody the things we love about Yuletide. The crazy designs are a great source of laughter for the whole family.

They even have their own holiday on December 15, Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, but you can always wear yours throughout the season. To celebrate, you could get something new, revel in the nostalgia of hand-me-downs from your grandparents, or even make your own.

Ugly Christmas Sweater Day is typically filled with parties, competitions, and charity events. It’s also the perfect occasion to gather your family for a photo shoot in matching sweaters.


Christmas is the only time you can wear the ugliest sweaters in your closet. In fact, it’s almost like a competition for who can wear the most outrageous design!

These festive sweaters have evolved from simple garments that no one ever wears to completely blowing up in the 2000s.

Nowadays, the season would not be complete without these fun, colorful sweaters. Annual themed parties and even charity events are dedicated to the season’s unmistakable fashion statement.

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About The Author

Jennifer Anyabuine
Jennifer Anyabuine

Jennifer Anyabuine is a med student and freelance writer. She writes on diverse topics, including health, wellness, and lifestyle. When she’s not studying or writing, she spends quality time with her family and two dogs.

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