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Christmas Jumpers

Are you on board with the ironic look?

Let’s be honest, the classic Christmas jumper is not a style item. Most are truly vile – many even have sound boxes or lights built in (never a good look). But perhaps that is the point. 

From fishermen to Mark Darcy

Christmas jumpers can be traced back to the patterned, knitted jumpers that Scandinavian fishermen wore to keep warm in the 19th and 20th century. Legend has it that the elaborate patterns and hand-knitted designs were individual to each wearer so that if a fisherman drowned at sea, his body could be identified. (Sorry if we put salty water in your Christmas spirit for a minute there.) 

More cheerfully, in the 1950s and 60s, when skiing really took off as a recreational activity, skiers adopted those patterned fisherman jumpers – now with fir tree and snowflake designs inspired by alpine forests. 

The route from these chunky outdoor classics to the unspeakable monstrosity of the Christmas novelty jumper seems to have gone via the simple fact that a jumper is the classic Christmas gift and yet is so often misjudged. Particularly, when given across generations. Even more particularly, when handmade by the gift giver. Most of us will be familiar with the discomfort of having to feign delight upon unwrapping a hideous offering in front of a beaming older relative. We Brits delight in that awkwardness (when it is happening to someone else of course) and it became a trope. Think of Mrs Weasley’s annual stocking fillers for Harry and Ron, and Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones Diary.  Perhaps it was poor Mr Darcy’s  (Colin Firth) silent but obvious agony in that stunning reindeer jumper in the 2001 film that bestowed cult status on the Christmas jumper. These days, the wearing of hideous jumpers in a spirit of festive irony is completely out of hand. It’s almost impossible to avoid novelty Christmas jumpers in shops around the festive period. A study by George at ASDA (a British supermarket) found that 1 in 5 Brits wear a Christmas jumper on Christmas Day. The general idea is: the uglier the better. This year, there is even a trend for wearing Christmas jumpers with supermarket logo designs (see Sarah Butler’s article in The Guardian: the’mundane’trendtheguardian). Aaaargh!

Christmas Jumper Day

But every cloud has a silver lining. In 2012, the charity Save the Children launched Christmas Jumper Day in order to raise money. People are encouraged to wear a festive pullie to their school or workplace and to donate a Pound to Save the Children. Christmas Jumper Day raises millions for the charity. 2021’s Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper day is on Friday 10th November.

If you prefer elegance over irony…

More good news, for those of us who looking for something warm and festive to wear but are not prepared to sport something revolting – even “ironically”:  it can be done. There are some classy versions out there, with lovely, clever festive designs. It is absolutely possible to rock a Christmas jumper and not compromise your elegant loungewear look, even on Christmas Day. A snowflake design is probably your safest bet. Our absolute favourite is this one from The White Company: thewhitecompanysnowflakejumper – perfect with some luxe joggers and posh slippers at home on Christmas morning and with jeans and boots for the Christmas post prandial. Jigsaw have a stylish beaded number: jigsawbeadedsnowflakejumper and this one from French Connection is lovely too: frenchconnectionsnowflakejumper.

If you enjoy the novelty look, then all power to you. We salute your ability to tolerate static. It’s not all year round after all. And whether you go for irony or elegance, let’s all support Christmas Jumper Day with a donation to Save the Children (more information at savethechildren.org).

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