When it comes to Christmas sweaters, call me Scrooge. What is the point of making or buying something that is meant to be either silly or unattractive and can only be worn a limited time of the year? Surely this is the mark of a consumer culture gone wild.
If you look online for the origins of Christmas sweaters, most sources say the tradition began in the 1950s, when the cult of Christmas really took off in the US and many people had enough money to buy things made for special occasions only. After spending several hours searching newspaper advertisements on line, I contend that the 1930s are a better starting place.
By that decade women could already find the three main genres of the holiday sweater: winter motifs, sparkles, and Christmas-specific designs. With the growing popularity of the Tyrolean style, sweaters adorned with snowflakes, pine trees, and Edelweiss became widely available. Sportswear companies like Jantzen began making ski outfits with similar motifs. Advertisements for sparkly sweaters designed to brighten up the holidays emerged in newspapers. And in 1937 I discovered the first ad for the so called “Jingle Bell sweater,” made specifically for Christmas.
I think the Christmas sweaters of today evolved from these fairly subtle origins. The sparkle sweater moved from a few stripes of tasteful glitter to lit up Christmas trees, the well placed snowflake metastasized into moose decorated monstrosities, and jingle bell sweaters grew to include Santa, Rudolph, and assorted elves.
Bah Humbug. It’s a hard season to be a minimalist.