No longer is the ugly Christmas sweater confined to the festive constraints of a single holiday party — at least not at the University of Washington where a group of students is hoping that a new tradition catches on.
Students are committed to wearing a different ugly Christmas sweater each of the 25 days leading to the holiday. In the process, they are redefining the meaning of ‘ugly’ and fostering a type of social sharing, while also spreading a bit holiday cheer.
The idea came from senior Tyler Adamson, a Medical Anthropology and Global Health major at UW, as a way to have fun before the holiday – a time mostly dominated by final exams.
“Everyone I know has loved it,” he said.
Adamson has a history of hosting an annual ugly Christmas sweater part. But taking on 25 days of ugly Christmas sweaters is a new level.
To make it through the month well dressed in this unique holiday finery, Adamson and the other participants have instituted a wear-and-trade system to rotate the sweaters among the group. He said each participant owns a few sweaters and by sharing them no one will be lacking in ugly sweater wardrobe.
There are 7 or 8 committed participants this year and several other students are participating occasionally in a show of solidarity.
One of those committed participants is senior Hana Lim, a pre-dental major at UW. Lim heard about the idea from Adamson and jumped on board with one hesitation.
“I liked the idea, but my concern was that I don’t have 25 sweaters,” she said.
With the sharing system and a few trips to secondhand stores, Lim has been appropriately dressed in holiday garb each day so far, but she’s noticed the perfect sweater isn’t exactly just waiting on a shelf.
“They’re not really easy to find, especially if you want a legit, kind of gaudy sweater,” Lim said.
For Adamson, the definition of “an ugly Christmas sweater” is something he wouldn’t wear on a normal day. He said if it’s crazy enough to be excluded from his everyday wardrobe, then it meets the ugly-sweater mark.
“My ideal sweater is a homemade one — with Christmas lights and reindeer,” he said.
Lim said a good ugly Christmas sweater means bright colors and a big design that dominates the fabric. Throw in some three-dimensional additions or some animals in Santa hats and that really sets a sweater apart she said.
Her favorite sweater is a bright red, double extra large item with snowmen on skis and presents with bright colors that she had to sew into a smaller and tighter fit. She said it’s now a type of sweater-dress that she pairs with leggings.
Even just 11 days into this sweater marathon, Lim and Adamson are looking to next year where they’d like to see the 25-days of ugly Christmas sweaters turn into an event to benefit others.
Adamson said he would like to see the event become a fundraiser or drive to improve the holiday season for people in need.
“It’s fun but if you can make it into something that benefits people, that’s more cool,” he said.
If the idea catches on, it could be something with wide participation.
“I think everyone has at least one ugly Christmas sweater,” Lim said.
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