Why does the Christmas jumper continue to dominate the festive season?

On both sides of the Atlantic, the Christmas jumper is even more prolific this year. And now there are baby jumpers, dog jumpers and even designer brands are cashing in on the trend. Why, asks Deirdre Reynolds
Why does the Christmas jumper continue to dominate the festive season?

AS Bridget Jones’s toffee-nosed love interest in the first film, Colin Firth unforgettably got quite a giggle for his cringey reindeer roll neck.

But more than a decade since the festive rom-com first hit big screens , fans of novelty knits could be having the last laugh this Christmas.

Between Ryan Tubridy’s own Mark Darcy moment on The Late Late Toy Show to Sarah Lund’s iconic Nordic knits on The Killing, the humble Christmas jumper has gone from naff to must-have in recent years.

Now even the man in the red suit may have to up his game as Santa-themed shirts, suits and frocks hit shelves this season.

“Ten years ago, only a handful of people wore Christmas jumpers,” says Fabio Molle of Funky Christmas Jumpers, the Irish brand behind the Rudolph design worn by Tubridy on the 2010 Toy Show. “Now everyone does. We’ve also started selling Christmas shirts, t-shirts, hats and socks, but the jumper is still number one.” Just a decade ago, no elf-respecting fashionista would have been caught dead in one of the garish geansaíthe, let alone a Santa’s Little Helper-style onesie or leggings.

Whether naughty or nice, today there’s something for every man, woman and child in the land in high street stores and online.

Even fur babies aren’t being left out in the cold this winter after Christmas jumpers for pets went on sale for €6.99 in Aldi stores nationwide last week.

“Irish people have certainly upped their Christmas jumper game in recent years,” says stylist Mark Andrew Kelly, whose look you can check out on Instagram at mark_andrew_kelly.

“Personally, I prefer a simple, Nordic-inspired chunky knit in navy or burgundy, which I would wear with a tailored trouser, some nice trainers and my staple Crombie.

“But if the 12 Pubs of Christmas is a key event in your calendar, then wearing something silly really should be mandatory. It’s all in the name of fun, so why not?”

Like beards and Birkenstocks, hipsters have been credited — or blamed, depending on your outlook — with bringing tacktastic Christmaswear back from the brink by wearing it ironically.

And the celebrity stamp of approval from the likes of Kanye West and Taylor Swift can’t have hurt either.

As the knitwear trend continues to unravel, Stateside, ugly Christmas ‘sweater’ parties have even become a thing.

Today FM’s Early Breakfast presenter Paula MacSweeney says she can think of nothing worse: “I absolutely loathe Christmas jumpers — there’s nothing original or charming about them any more.

“I have a few questionable pieces of clothing in my own wardrobe, so I wouldn’t dream of telling someone what to wear or what not to wear.

“But big groups of pissed-up people roaming the streets in silly jumpers is not a welcome sight to me in December — and I love Christmas!”

Some experts claim there could be a deeper reason why some young urbanites look like they’re permanenetly dressed for the festive pub crawl once the mercury plunges.

“Nostalgia is a huge hipster virtue,” argues Jonathan D Fitzgerald, author of Not Your Mother’s Morals: How the New Sincerity is Changing Pop Culture for the Better. “This isn’t about irony, it’s about kitsch.

“This is about looking back to something nostalgic - ‘Oh, my mom used to wear sweaters like that.’ It’s only people who are afraid to express the fact that they enjoy it who say it’s ironic.”

As the nation gathers around the googlebox for the annual Late, Late Toy Show this Friday night, Penneys has launched an official range of Toy Show Christmas gear — including jumpers and jim-jams priced from €10-€20 — to help raise money for Temple Street Children’s Hospital.

Tesco, Heatons and Boohoo.com are just some of the other budget brands helping viewers to get into the spirit sartorially.

Of course, not all Christmas jumpers are cheap and cheerful. Some — such as Stella McCartney’s €1,000 pink wool-blend one — are very (rein)dear indeed.

“High street stores were never in the market,” says Fabio Molle, which is found in the basement of Bus Stop Newsagents at the top of Dublin’s Grafton Street, as well as online. “Now every brand out there has a Christmas jumper, at least.

“Coming up with new ideas every year can be very difficult, and we’ll definitely have to expand into the UK and US if we’re going to survive. But our new ‘Baby Jesus Selfie’ jumper is already going down really well, and will probably sell out by next week.”

Across the pond, ‘Christmas Jumper Day’ takes places on Friday, December 18 , with people urged to don their ugliest Christmas pullover in aid of charity, Save the Children.

So as the Irish follow suit — or rather, jumper — stylist Mark Andrew Kelly has this advice: “Keep it simple and expensive looking by teaming your festive knit with a skinny indigo jean and classic court or pump.

“Then again, if you’re going to wear a Christmas jumper, I tend to think, ‘In for a penny, in for a pound’.”

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