Beyond Retro Presents: History of Christmas Jumpers

Beyond Retro Presents: History of Christmas Jumpers

December 25th. The year? 1AD.

A fresh little baby Jesus, kicking back in his crib. Mother Mary is wiped, and after nine months preggers, she’s well up for an eggnog.

She tries in vain to catch her hubby’s eye, but not a chance. Why?

Three Wise Blokes, who just turned up to watch that baby get born, are showing off their gifts… a truly holy knitwear selection, which they are modelling for maximum effect.

Staff at Beyond Rero Brighton Modelling their Knitwear.

The first Shrewd Dude has a sparkly number, glittering under the night sky, a fabulous bright gold. The second Knowledgeable Guy is wearing a classic red and green, with ‘Talk To Frankincense’ emblazoned on the chest. The third and final Sensible Chap’s torso is entirely occupied by a woven picture of Olly Murs. With antlers.

Joseph doesn’t know who Olly Murs is yet (though by God he will), but he doesn’t mind. Cos these lads showing up has changed his festive wardrobe, and his life, forever. And also, he’s chuffed because his wife had a good baby.

Of course, we all know that story. The tale of how the Christmas jumper came to be. The weird thing is though, that no one wore them again till basically the 1950s. Which is mad, ‘cause they’re tremendous.

Some Randoms in the 1950s.

History of the Nordic Knit

Perhaps inspired by that tale - but more likely by the thick, geometrically-patterned, woven-hygge Scandi knits, worn from the 19th century onwards by everyone from ice-cold fishermen to Ingrid Bergman - decorated woolly jumpers found their way to the UK in the 1950s.

Woolly jumpers, hats and cardigans (and of course socks, the Christmas jumper’s evil little twin brothers), led a knitwear revolution that gradually started to replace dresses and suits as the winter gifts of choice.

The ‘Ugly Christmas Sweater’ itself, with festive designs such as snowmen, reindeer and X-Factor runners-up, found its way into popular culture over the next couple of decades, adorning such style icons as crooner Val Doonican, presenter Timmy Mallett, and w***er Gyles Brandreth*, very much the Three Wise Men of their time.

Andy Williams Christmas Jumper

When Christmas Jumpers Went Downhill.

The rebirth of the Christmas Jumper

Then something very sad happened. Despite such trailblazing, youth-culture icons flying the festive flag for the Xmas weave, they started to be seen as basically a bit naff.

However, on 13th April 2001, nearly two millennia later, a saviour was born.

Colin ‘Sexy Lake Man’ Firth, playing the emotionally-constipated heartthrob Mark Darcy, showed up at Bridget Jones’s mum’s mate’s party, in cinemas across the world… wearing a massive woolly reindeer on his tummy. Hallelujah.

Mark Darcy Christmas Jumper

The Jumper in Question.

From then on, ‘Ugly’ Christmas jumpers rose again into the mainstream.

Not without a good helping of humour and more than a smidge of irony, of course, our favourite yuletide pullovers found their way onto the high street like never before, onto high-fashion catwalks, melting the hearts of designers such as Ralph Lauren, Burberry and both Dolce AND Gabbana.

They even prompted an alternative range produced by thrash metal veterans, Slayer.

Slayer's Christmas Jumpers.

Our Favourite Vintage Christmas Jumpers

Nowadays, the Christmas jumper is a must-have in the winter wardrobe.

Practical, adaptable and ugly-cute, they pair well with almost any personal style. Whether you’re going for the ice-cool-at-Christmas vibe, getting swept away by the Yuletide, or going full-out ho-ho-ho, a vintage knit is a versatile and fun feature piece.

Vintage Nordic Knitwear

One of the jolliest things about vintage knitwear is the perfect opportunity it offers to help support change, as the world moves towards sustainable fashion. Shockingly, in 2017, one in four high street-bought Christmas jumpers were discarded after the holiday period. What the Dickens?!

For a more sustainable option, cosy up in a retro Nordic knit from Christmasses Past, that still looks great Christmas Present, and will just get better for Christmasses Yet to Come.

They pair perfectly with a port red lipstick, ankle boots, and a 70s wide-leg trouser for timeless tidings. God bless us, every one!

Vintage Christmas Jumper Beyond Retro

Nordic Knit, £26.

Slogan Christmas Jumpers

In more recent trends, Christmas jumpers have opened up a world of possibilities in woven slogans, puns and pop culture references.

Avoid disposable fast fashion, and keep the North Pole very merry, by wearing upcycled sweaters just like our reworked LABEL ones.

These looks are perfect for a statement-heavy but a fashion-friendly approach to the wacky world of Winterval.

If it’s not too snowy, match with your favourite jeans and a pair of Converse for a 90s casual look.

Vintage Christmas Jumper Beyond Retro

Label Slogan Sweatshirt, £17

Christmas Cardigans

Sure, if you want to go all out, get yourself a dancing, singing, turkey hat, a pair of elf leggings, St. Nick’s beard, and a 3D jumper with baubles, bells, a removable Rudolph, and all the trimmings.

But of course, the holiday period is a time of year for everyone! So, if you are too alternative for advents, and mince pies are a bit mainstream, a bold print on a black Christmas cardigan can look edgy when paired with Docs, cropped trousers, an oversized winter coat and a trawler.

Vintage Christmas Cardigan from Beyond Retro

Christmas Cardigan £19

Most merrily of all, ‘tis the only season you can prance about like a sassy Noël Edmonds and still get a kiss under the mistletoe, so whichever woolly wonder you wear this Winter, just get out there, and sleeeeeeeeeeeigh!!! 

The Royal Family in Theirs.

Get your Christmas jumper now!

*Not being rude, it’s true. Gyles Brandreth is a writer.

Get To Know Nordic Knits

Get To Know Nordic Knits

Winter is in full swing which means we have now entered peak jumper season. Whilst ugly Christmas jumpers are pretty much inescapable, it's classier Nordic knit cousin is a fabulously cosy and way less garish option for those who want to keep warm in style. This is a must-have item for both those into Scandinavian styling and the consistently cold.

nordic knitwear, scandi

The Origin of Nordic Knitwear

The traditional Nordic sweater features a wide decorative pattern around the neckline which is the same all the way around, meaning that you can wear it either way round and it wouldn't make a difference. It's named from the Icelandic lopapeysa from "Lopa" meaning wool and "peysa" translating to the sweater.

What are Nordic jumpers made from?

The real deal is always made from pure Icelandic wool with both inner and outer fibres that originate from sheep bred over 1000 years in sub-Arctic climates. There's nothing else quite like it in the world and anything manufactured else wear is considered a knockoff, the quality texture of the genuine product is both glossy and water resistant.

The Story behind the iconic Nordic pattern

You won't find many bright colours in these cuddly creations as the wool is mostly used in its natural hues: black, brown, grey and white. Although knitting came to Iceland in the mid-sixteenth century, this style of the jumper wasn't adopted until around the 1950's when they became an invented symbol of national identity following the countries' break away from Denmark. It's argued that the pattern draws inspiration from South American, Turkish and Swedish designs.

Norwegian variants of the Winter staple dates as far back as the 1500s and contribute to some of the most popular designs of the sweater to date. These versions of the Nordic sweater tend to be ever so slightly more colourful than their Icelandic counterparts. Two of the most renowned patterns attributed to this style are the setesdal lusekofte and the fana cardigan sweater.

Nordic Knitwear in Popular Culture

Nordic knit sweaters have been popular for Ski holidays since the 1930s. The 1950s saw the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly wearing these knit classic, right through the 1970s where Nordic knitwear became all the fashion for everyday winter wear.

Ingrid Bergman 1940s

The jumper was originally designed by Anna-Lisa Mannheimen around 1940 and the red edge pattern is a signature look from Swedish born actress Ingrid Bergman.

Grace Kelly 1960s

    The ever so chic Princess, and one of the worlds all-time timeless style icons. Seen here in a simple Nordic design cardigan in the late 1960s.

    Prince Charles 1980s

      It’s not every day you call Charles for some style inspo, but this cardigan polo neck combination is a must-have look for winter in a look that screams James Bond ski holiday.  

      Amy Pond in Dr Who 2011

        A modern take on the traditional jumper, and the beginning of the craze of wearing festive knitwear on Christmas day. Amy Pond from Dr Who pulls off a take on a traditional pattern from 1930s ski knitwear.

        Nordic Knitwear We Love

        Nowadays, Nordic and Scandinavian sweater fashions can be seen everywhere from the catwalk to the high street, and everywhere in between. Style them with a pair of high waisted jeans and a sturdy pair of winter boots and you'll have yourself the cosiest ever Winter outfit, ready to tackle the great outside or cuddle up with a book indoors.

        Men's Nordic Jumper

          Vintage Nordic Sweater From Beyond Retro

          Nordic Jumper

          The more traditional men's Nordic jumper isn’t just for a weekend of fishing in the icey scandi countryside, they are the perfect winter warmer and a staple wardrobe piece! Whatever era your style falls under, they are a go-to paired with classic wool-blend trousers and high top Converse for the ultimate daytime look.

          Nordic Cardigan

            Vintage Nordic Cardigan At Beyond Retro

            Nordic Cardigan

            The cosier cousin of the jumper, your cardigan can take any outfit a long way! Go for classic 1960s look and pair yours with a simple polo neck and high waisted capri pants, you can also dress this up for Christmas day and pair with a vintage dress, perfect after Christmas dinner and way too many glasses of Baileys...

            Non-Traditional Jumper

              Vintage Nordic Jumper

              Nordic Jumper

              The bolder the better when it comes to a non-traditional Nordic knit. Great for everyday wear and enough to brighten up anyone’s cold Monday morning. Pair with vintage Levis and ankle boots for a timelessly on trend look.

              Inspired? Read more about the humble Christmas jumper on our ultimate guide and show off your purchased on Instasgram by tagging #beyondretro.

              Blogger @livpurvis in one of our vintage Nordic Knits

              Words Mary Costello