Gaudy Christmas sweaters have become all the rage.
Ugly-Christmas-sweater parties are so popular that US thrift stores and specialty retailers are making sure the kitschy clothing is in stock, and entrepreneurs are cashing in on a trend that evokes an awkward Colin Firth in the "Bridget Jones" films.
Jack McCarthy, 17, and his sister sell sweaters scavenged from thrift stores and yard sales for anywhere from $19 to $45 on UltimateUglyChristmas.com.
"People just seem to love outdoing each other in ugliness," McCarthy said. "The key is, you want something that’s tacky in a good way. You don’t want ugly like boring, you want something like a piece of art.
"Like it might be a good Christmas decoration, but once you put it on yourself that’s where it becomes ugly."
Some people speculate that loud sweaters evoke fond memories of holidays past. Others say it’s just an expression of holiday cheer.
Bright and mismatched colors are a plus, as are sequins, beads and fringes. But the clincher is graphics — winter scenes busy and intricate enough to make the viewer cringe.
Emily Bell scoured thrift stores with one strategy: If a garment could be called tasteful, it wasn’t good enough.
For less than $10, she bought a blue blazer covered in oversized stars, trees and snowmen, along with a bright red sweater showing a Christmas tree trimmed with bulbous red ornaments.
"Everyone was horrified and amused," Bell said of partygoers who awarded her the top prize.
Jennifer Rogalin manages Ragstock, a specialty-clothing store. She said a lot of their holiday items are attractive, but so many people ask for ugly sweaters that the store now advertises them that way.
Ritter suggested the ugly-sweater craze gets a boost from social media, as more people tweet about ugly-sweater parties and post the pictures on Facebook. "Ugly sweaters" has been a popular trend on Twitter this week.
Clarissa Trujillo, 30, and her husband sold more than 3,000 sweaters through their UglySweaterStore.com this year, Trujillo said.
"I knew we were on the verge of a growing trend, but I can’t tell you how insane it’s been since then," she said.