Sociology PhD Candidate Kerri Scheer authored a post on Sociological Images concerning the rise of “the Ugly Christmas Sweater” trend. In the post Scheer explores the role of nostalgia and consumerism in driving the popularity of Ugly Christmas Sweaters. Kerri Scheer is a PhD candidate at the U of T Sociology Department. She is currently working toward her dissertation on Producing Law and Governance: A case study of the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Ontario Disciplinary Process.
SocImages Classic—The Ugly Christmas Sweater: From ironic nostalgia to festive simulation
Kerri Scheer | December 12, 2017
National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day is this Friday, December 15th. Perhaps you’ve noticed the recent ascent of the Ugly Christmas Sweater or even been invited to an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party. How do we account for this trend and its call to “don we now our tacky apparel”?
Ugly Christmas Sweater parties purportedly originated in Vancouver, Canada, in 2001. Their appeal might seem to stem from their role as a vehicle for ironic nostalgia, an opportunity to revel in all that is festively cheesy. It also might provide an opportunity to express the collective effervescence of the well-intentioned (but hopelessly tacky) holiday apparel from moms and grandmas.
However, The Atlantic points to a more complex reason why we might enjoy the cheesy simplicity offered by Ugly Christmas Sweaters: “If there is a war on Christmas, then the Ugly Christmas Sweater, awesome in its terribleness, is a blissfully demilitarized zone.” This observation pokes fun at the Fox News-style hysterics regarding the “War on Christmas”; despite being commonly called Ugly Christmas Sweaters, the notion seems to persist that their celebration is an inclusive and “safe” one.
We might also consider the generally fraught nature of the holidays (which are financially and emotionally taxing for many), suggesting that the Ugly Sweater could offer an escape from individual holiday stress. There is no shortage of sociologists who can speak to the strain of family, consumerism, and mental health issues that plague the holidays, to say nothing of the particular gendered burdens they produce. Perhaps these parties represent an opportunity to shelve those tensions.
But how do we explain the fervent communal desire for simultaneous festive celebration and escape? …