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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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, with freshly embroidered designs. 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.
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.
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!!!
Get more festive inspiration with our top gift ideas for Christmas 2018!
*Not being rude, it’s true. Gyles Brandreth is a writer.