Raising the “Ugly Bar” This Christmas


Lia Nardone, Nick Kattis and Rachael Aragona getting in the holiday spirit with their ugly christmas sweaters.

Lia Nardone, Nick Kattis and Rachael Aragona getting in the holiday spirit with their ugly christmas sweaters.

A visit to your grandmother’s closet, followed by a quick trip to the dollar store for gaudy decorations and super glue, was once the only way to create an ugly Christmas sweater for the holidays.

But when the trend re-emerged around 2001, retailers started to pick up on the next big Christmas consumer product.

Since then, the ugly sweater tradition has boomed and has made shopping for one that resembles your personality much easier.

“People like the challenge of trying to outdo each other with the most outrageous sweater they can find,” said Tyler Schwartz, owner of RetroFestive.ca.

“I think people love dressing up and being silly at special occasions.”

Although some people will still stop by Value Village this season for a “true” ugly Christmas sweater—probably one that was seriously worn in the 70s—others will take the easy route and shop online, at the local mall.

Founded in Oakville, RetroFestive.ca sells multiple styles of ugly Christmas sweaters online, along with other ugly Christmas merchandise. Their “naughty” line contains humorous, cheeky graphics, whereas their “nice” line has sweaters crammed with so much Christmas imagery you can’t help but laugh.

Schwartz also decided to add a line of NHL, NFL and MBA sweaters. “It seemed like a logical extension to combine the ugly sweater phenomenon with the sports apparel phenomenon.”

Another online shop, tipsyelves.ca sells sweaters with everything from crude reindeer to Home Alone-inspired quotes.

Even Drake’s Hotline Bling dance moves made it onto an ugly Christmas sweater this year.

However, if you’re looking for something a bit more classic and well-known, you can always go for Colin Firth’s look – circa 1993 Bridget Jones’s Diary—and pick up a reindeer sweater at almost any retailer participating in the fad.

With so many retailers, the price of sweaters can be competitive, ranging from $20-$80 depending on the brand. And there are no shortage of choices.

Santa riding a unicorn in space with a lightsaber, for example, sells for $89.95 on tipsyelves.ca, whereas a gingerbread ninja sweater sells for $54.95.

“Our challenge is to provide the most novel and unique products we can each year, because the ‘ugly bar’ keeps getting raised,” said Schwartz.

AtRetroFestive.ca a Grinch-inspired sweater is $60, Buddy the Elf is $90, and a simple Santa graphic is $40.

While some students might not want to spend more than $20 on a sweater they will wear two or three times a year, there is a certain appeal.

“I think they’re fun and force people to get into the spirit a little bit,” said Kaitlyn Fifield, a student in Fashion Management at George Brown College.

“They can also be a good piece for those fashionistas who like to experiment and have fun with their look.”

Even men’s fashion has taken the ugly Christmas sweater to the next level with ugly Christmas suits at Shinesty.com. Plaid, snowflakes, snowmen and Christmas trees almost make these suits look like pajamas. However, they sell for $100.

From thrift stores to fashion designers like Dolce and Gabbana, the ugly Christmas sweater is more alive than ever and is most likely here to stay.

“Really it’s not that different than dressing up for a Halloween party. And people are putting together complete ugly ensembles, with hats, glasses, headbands, necklaces and other kitschy accessories,” says Schwartz.