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Ugly Sweaters: A Time Line


They’re hosting parties.

They’re running 5Ks.

They’re taking over the Internet.

They’re even taking over your grandma’s closet.

Ugly sweaters. Whether you’re trendy, ironic, going to a party or dressing up for a Christmas card picture, you need a patchwork of hideous threads. But where did they come from? Who started this phenomenon?

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far away – The first long sleeved, thick, crew neck is sewn together. Sweaters are invented. Manufacturers are bestowed the simple task of choosing the right colors and patterns for their designs. Will they do what’s right or what’s easy?

1980 – The ugly sweater’s cousins across the pond —the Christmas jumper in the UK —rise in popularity after a variety of TV presenters don them on their talk shows. They’re tacky, they’re festive but we accept them anyways.

1984 – The Cosby Show with Bill Cosby premieres. Cliff Huxtable, father and ugly sweater extraordinaire, becomes one of America’s favorite characters. His choice in gross, mismatched patterns does not go unnoticed. The term “Cosby sweater” is coined.

1989 – Ugly meets festive, a match made in heaven. Chevy Chase rocks a holiday sweater in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

2001 – People have literally spent the last 10 years pretending these things are funny, yet reasonable items of clothing. Embarrassment and shame are thrown into the mix when Colin Firth wears a reindeer turtleneck in “Bridget Jone’s Diary.” Thanks for ruining it for everyone, Colin Firth!

2002 – A group of Canadians throw what they believe to be the first ugly sweater party. The office tradition has carried on ever since.

2006 – The future is out, the past is in. Nostalgia makes a resurgence in the current generation. Basement marathons of shows like “The Golden Girls”, “Full House” and “The Cosby Show” ensue. Teens rifle through their parents’ closets, looking to sport some 80’s and 90’s fashion.

2011 – The love for the 80’s has spread into holiday wear. Ugly sweaters are back! Times magazine runs a feature on their resurgence as they begin to make appearances in holiday collections for stores like H&M and Macy’s.

2013 – Forget scavenging your parents’ closets, Macklemore tells us to pop tags with his song, “Thrift Shop.” Goodwill welcomes wannabe thrifters and begins marketing an “Ugly Sweater” section in select stores.

2014 – A simple Google search will find you 10 different websites specializing in ugly sweaters, partnered with NFL brands, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and even Wu-Tang. Looking ugly isn’t cheap— most sweater’s ballpark $30-$70, with some sweaters selling for thousands of dollars on eBay.

2015 – Seth Rogen puts the “holiday” in “holiday sweater”, sporting a menorah-decorated, Hanukah sweater in the comedy adventure film, “The Night Before.”

2016 – They have effectively taken over the world. Every store, from Walmart to Target to Nordstrom’s have their answer to an ugly sweater. On top of that, you have a variety of opportunities to sport your obnoxious winter wear, including the traditional party, the Ugly Sweater Run and the Ugly Sweater Bar Crawl.


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