Felt appliques and pom-poms? It must be ugly Christmas sweater season. It’s one of those cyclical things, as is fashion generally. Trends come and go over the course of a generation or two—but ugly Christmas sweaters are something different. They harken back to the era of TV and movie dads like Cliff Huxtable and Clark Griswold—but for every person who prizes them for their tacky nostalgia, there’s another whose appreciation is genuine. The ugly Christmas sweater may be the only garment around which get-togethers are specifically arranged, excepting maybe lingerie parties.
In the Truckee Meadows, ugly sweater parties are public affairs—and there are a bevy of them. Here’s a peek at a few.
On Dec. 15, from 2 to 5 p.m., there’s an ugly sweater wine walk on the Riverwalk in Reno. Ticket sales support the merchants’ association for the district, as well as Safe Embrace, a local women’s shelter.
The fourth annual “12 Bars of Christmas Ugly Sweater Crawl” is scheduled for Saturday Dec. 22, starting at 7 p.m. in downtown Sparks on Victorian Avenue. The United Cerebral Palsy Thrift Store, 2150 Oddie Blvd., is selling ugly holiday sweaters and including a free crawl ticket for customers 21 and older.
Thrift stores have long been the juggernauts of the ugly Christmas sweater industry, but, according to longtime Junkee Clothing Exchange employee Christina Solis, the growing popularity of ugly sweater parties has recently begun to affect this.
“Now, everybody has [ugly sweaters],” she said. “You can go to Walgreens. You can go to Target. You can go anywhere. Back in the day, we literally were the only one in town that had ugly Christmas sweaters. We would order them specially from L.A.—have a picker go through all of the thrift stores in California. She would send them to us, and we would sell out.”
This year, the sweaters on Junkee’s racks are leftovers from the previous year. People are increasingly more interested in novelty sweaters—the mass-produced kind that actually feature Huxtable or Griswold, or any number of kitschy themes from llamas to sunglasses-clad Santas.
“Since it’s catching on, people are like, ’I really want the Santa that’s pooping on a Porta Potty,’” Solis said. “That’s not the whole point of an ugly Christmas sweater, for me anyway. … There’s a company called Tipsy Elves, and that’s all they do, is make ugly Christmas sweaters. But they’re, like, the novelty ones, and they sell them for, like, a hundred bucks.”
Sweaters in Junkee’s selection are generally conservative, and they rarely run more than $15.
“Ours are like Minnesota mom sweaters—like somebody actually wore that to a bake sale and thought, ’Damn, I look good,’” she said.
For people who can embrace neither mass-produced nor vintage “Minnesota mom” sweaters, there’s always the option of creating something custom.
“I would encourage people, if you like a sweater and it fits well, you can always get your hot glue gun out and put some more cheesy stuff, like puff balls and ornaments, on it if you want—just to make it a little bit more special and, obviously, uglier.”
Here’s another idea. Take your favorite band sweatshirt (or T-shirt with a sweatshirt under it) and pin felt or construction paper Santa hats and/or reindeer antlers to the artists’ heads. Merry KISS-mas, anyone?