Updated: January 18, 2013 6:10AM
Everything about December is divine. Well, almost everything.
Wreaths bump up blah office buildings. Lights beautify bushes. Store windows become extravagant North Pole narratives. Even the air — a heady scent of pine and aromatic spices — is prettified. On the fashion front, drama is par for the cocktail-studded course: Sequins, fur, satin and lace descend like sartorial fairy dust over Chicago.
But there is a rogue movement staining the inherent chic of the holiday season. Strolling down Michigan Avenue, you may have spotted an otherwise elegant man wearing what looked like a Christmas tree crossed with baby vomit. Then, during a pick-me-up toffee at Vosges Haut- Chocolat, your eyes became fixated upon small lights flashing. The lights, you note, are not part of the shop’s upscale décor. They are affixed to a woman’s cardigan, part of a broader scene depicting chortling reindeer making merry upon a Midwestern candy cane farm. You start to sweat. On the 151 bus home, you see that these strange, macabre visions were not one-off occurrences. The pernicious pullovers are everywhere.
A hideous trend has been born: The Ugly Christmas Sweater (UCS). It’s a curious situation. The eyesore of Ugly Christmas-themed apparel is in stark contrast with the heart-thumping beauty of the holiday season.
The moment the last T-day turkey bone is sucked dry, these dastardly duds are pulled from storage and sported with pride from the outlying suburbs to the city center. Dubbed “festive” and “whimsical” by devotees, the sweaters in question are a hideous marriage of boxy silhouette, nauseating color scheme and tacky imagery that includes one or more of the following: reindeer, candy canes, Santa Claus, elves, “nutcracker” soldiers, holiday ornaments and snowmen. And, interestingly enough, it’s often the lowest key person who goes for the highest wattage of sweater. This means additional ornamentation in the form of tinsel appliqué or, perhaps, small bells.
You could say that the sweaters are kitsch. But, that would imply that the wearers possess a keen sense of irony. This is absolutely not the case. UCS enthusiasts earnestly parade down the catwalk of life convinced that they are the embodiment of haute holiday finery. Another surprise: Gnarly knit enthusiasts are not geriatric. This trend is, unfortunately, embraced by women and men of all ages. A humorist at heart, I cannot help but yearn for some satiric skewering. My dream? A comedic triumvirate — Jon Stewart, Joan Rivers and Woody Allen — tackling this tacky tour de force at some sort of Fashion Friars Club roast.
Though I loathe this “trend,” there is one saving grace. A small tribe of UCS lovers have harnessed the kitsch factor into an ironic statement. Enter the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party. Invitees are encouraged to bust out their holiday hideosity (or order a sweater from a company called My Ugly Christmas Sweater in Vermont) for the ultimate challenge: to win the ugliest Christmas sweater contest.
Please, don’t invite me.
Amy Tara Koch donated her fee for writing this column to the American Red Cross to benefit Hurricane Sandy victims.