I’m no scientist and I don’t have any retail experience, but it sure seems like there is some sort of karmic black hole forming in the universe, triggered by the rise of the ugly holiday sweater.
Because I have very few friends and even less free time, I’ve never actually been to even one of the growing number of ugly holiday sweater parties. But my wife is having one at work this week so we packed the kids into the minivan and set out to find her gag garb.
This was fare more complicated than we had anticipated.
For starters: Yes, we probably should have gone to a secondhand store. But we didn’t. And it was too late to look online. So let’s forget those options exist. Instead, we went to the mall and wound up searching through a department store, a novelty store and what I’ve long referred to as a teacher store. (No, not the kind that sell bulletin-board materials and crepe; the kind that specializes in frumpy clothes with snowflakes embroidered on them.)
Still, the hunt was problematic on many levels. You can’t just ask a sales person, “Do you have any Christmas sweaters that will make me look stupid?” You especially can’t ask that of a person who happens to be wearing a sweater that would fit the bill. Instead, we felt it best to keep the details to ourselves, to make this a covert mission in order to avoid hurting any feelings.
On that note, what if you choose a sweater that someone you know wears around in a non-ironic way? That seems like one of the meanest, non-lethal things you could do to a co-worker. (Or is vomiting on someone worse? I think it depends on what they ate beforehand and what part of your body they hit.)
The concept of the bad holiday sweater flies in the face of the very idea of retail. Pretty much everything in every store was designed with the idea of looking good, not silly. Certainly, there are clothes that make people look worse, but it’s generally accidental. And when hipsters go ironic, they flip the script and make said item ubercool. (Also, I feel it necessary to at least acknowledge that, yes, shopping for purposely lame clothes you will wear more than one day per year is a giant waste of money and at least vaguely disrespectful to needy people both at home and abroad. But that’s a post for another day.)
We did stumble upon several articles that seemed funny if not necessarily in line with the holiday idea, including a jacket made entirely of peacock feathers and a sweatshirt with penguins stitched on it. My wife passed on the latter because it wasn’t technically a sweater and because the penguins were too cute to be classified as ugly.
Finally, we opted to try one more store, off mall grounds. Maybe not coincidentally, we quickly hit paydirt. The winning number: A powder blue zip-up sweater with a white, furry collar and pictures of tall bird feeders sewn into the bottom. It’s a real humdinger.
Now, the only real question is what will happen next: that sweater becoming legitimately cool or the end of the fad that brought it into our home.