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Uglier the sweater, the better

By Tammy Keith

This article was published December 29, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

I’ve never been to an ugly-Christmas-sweater party, but I’ve helped dress several people for them this year.

Back in the day, Christmas sweaters were the thing. The gaudier the better. All kinds of colors with appliques and bows. Lots of bling. Big snowmen, Santas, reindeer and fur collars.

Everyone I knew wore them to parties in the ’80s. Of course, they had linebacker-esque shoulder pads, too. My husband had a sweater with a Santa that covered his entire chest. That’s what he was wearing when the now legendary Christmas Eve fire happened. He was unaware at first that one arm of his sweater had caught fire on a candle during dinner at my mother-in-law’s house. The image of the beautiful colors as they flamed up his arm is burned into my memory.

Eventually, those sweaters went out of style. My husband and I got rid of most of ours. (Yes, I know some people still wear them, but Tim Gunn would not approve.)

I’m not sure where or why this ugly-Christmas-sweater craze started, but it’s taken off, and the parties are popular right now. I even saw a book about ugly Christmas sweaters with funny pictures.

A big-box store had sweaters for sale with a gingerbread man on the front and the words: “This is my ugly Christmas sweater.”

I jumped on board this fall by buying ugly Christmas sweaters, vests and shirts when I came across them at thrift stores. It was fun to find them, and I became a little obsessed. (Anyone who knows me will not be surprised at this.)

My plan was to sell them to make a little extra Christmas money, and to have my own stash, in case I, or anybody in my family, needed one.

As the holiday was getting closer, I got them out and was surprised that I had about 15 of various levels of ugliness and tackiness. Some were actually cute, if you like that sort of thing.

I’d bet my life that one vest with teddy bears on it belonged to an elementary school teacher.

One night when my older son and his girlfriend were over, I showed off the sweaters and modeled a few.

Girlfriend picked out a brown and blue one (you know, that popular Christmas-color combination), which was cute on her.

She wore it to a work Christmas party.

I kept a black vest with poinsettias, with a big fake poinsettia pin attached, and another blingy Christmas sweater, too.

I sold several, including one to a muscle-bound car salesman who bought the woman’s size 2X vest with sparkly beading. He bought another sweater with penguins on it for a co-worker (or so he said).

When I was shopping a few days before Christmas, I happened to see this guy in the men’s clothing section of a store. He was wearing the vest and a Christmas tie with blinking lights to complete the ensemble. I felt strangely proud.

I have a few sweaters and shirts left over, but I figure it’s a head start on next year, if this trend continues.

What I wouldn’t give to have my husband’s Santa sweater back, singed arm and all.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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