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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 January 2019

Deconstructed: the Christmas jumper

How did this garish piece of knitwear make its way into our wardrobes?

Festive jumpers began to feature in Christmas advertising campaigns, and going into the 1970s and 1980s. Courtesy Bounce
Festive jumpers began to feature in Christmas advertising campaigns, and going into the 1970s and 1980s. Courtesy Bounce

Often scratchy and almost always ugly, Christmas jumpers are the unlikely festive must-haves. Once considered a fashion monstrosity, a novelty knit is now almost as common as a Santa hat at the office Christmas party, but how did it all happen?

Festive jumpers can be traced back to Scandinavia in the late 19th century, when heavy knits were sought to help inhabitants deal with the harsh winters. The pullovers were characterised by contrasting geometric prints, and were said to distinguish fishermen if they were to drown at sea. The patterns became slightly more festive when similar jumpers were adopted by alpine skiers during the first half of the 20th century. The colour schemes featured deep greens to mimic the forest environment, and were often adorned with pine trees. During the 1960s knitwear revolution, the first Christmas jumpers as we know them today started to appear.

Festive jumpers began to feature in Christmas advertising campaigns, and going into the 1970s and 1980s, even made a few catwalk appearances.

In 2001, actor Colin Firth wore a reindeer jumper in Bridget Jones’s Diary, which became the butt of many a joke. That attitude seemed to spill over into popular culture throughout the noughties, and Christmas jumpers were largely shunned. By 2012, celebrities such as Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Kanye West had all been spotted rocking festive knitwear, making them officially cool again. It’s been six years since that happened, and Christmas Jumpers show no signs of climbing back into the garish hole they came from. Even the high-end designers are in on it, with Ralph Lauren and Stella McCartney among the labels to release festive knitwear.

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