Op-Ed: Ugly Christmas Sweaters-An Expose and Memoir of Montana Moms


It’s that time of year. Whether we like them or not, out they come. The “Ugly Christmas Sweaters” brigade is upon us once again and worn by young, old, fat, thin, rich, and poor. Because even if you’re broke, chances are you can afford an ugly sweater.

It all began in our household about 25 years ago. However, back then, we ‘moms’ bought them and wore them with pride. We never even considered that they might be ‘ugly’ or we wouldn’t have worn them! Each of us had at least a couple, and dorky or not, we wore them and thought they were beautiful. And we usually bought them NEW, not in a thrift store, mercy!

The first insult came as a hard blow. My friend Mary was upfront and honest and didn’t hold anything back.

“Wow, that thing is so ugly,” she belted.

“Really?” I mused, “I thought it was kind of cute.”

“No, it’s really ugly,” she spouted and then guffawed.

Well, that didn’t stop me because I paid good money for that green thing that I’d never be caught dead in now, and I wore it about five more years till it got really ratty. It was high-quality polyester, so how did it get so worn?

Back then, we moms even wore them to church. I don’t really remember too many kids wearing them, but my kids donned ‘Christmas hats’ to the grocery store and so on because winter is dreary in northern Montana and who doesn’t want to see a bit of really bright red? They even say bright red cars get in less wrecks, so red it was.

Recently a friend treated several of us to a night out and a ride on a “Trolley Car,” to go see Christmas lights and yes, the rules were ‘Wear an Ugly Christmas Sweater.’ Well, I can tell you what, there was no way on this green earth (I mean snowy) that I would buy a NEW ugly sweater, and I had zero time to go shopping at a thrift store for one.

My teenage son also needed one for a party he is going to this week, so I told him, “Buy one for me and dad cuz we gotta wear one for this trolley thing were going on.”

He went out ‘thrifting’ that night, and sure enough, things were bleak. “No ugly sweaters anywhere, and the place was packed.”


We were due to hop on the trolley the next day, and I was trying not to stress, so I did the thing I knew to do. “Lord,” I sighed, “Will you please bring me an ugly sweater cuz you know I have no time to go look for one, and they are a hot commodity. Thanks, Lord.”

Then I got a bright idea. I called my ‘homeschooling mom friend’ of thirty years (and yes, both of us are STILL homeschooling) and ranted. “I need an ugly sweater whatcha got.”

“I’ve got three, and I’m coming to town tomorrow. One I used to wear to church.”

Told ya.

Perfect, whew, I was covered. And when she showed up with those UGLY sweaters, I realized just how really dorky they were.

“You really used to wear this to church?”

“Yep, I sure did, and I thought it was really pretty at the time. And it was expensive look at that tag! It was hand-knit!”

Here’s the line-up she brought for me to try on. Which one would you choose? Needless to say, I went for comfort (and something I could wear a turtleneck under, yes, I know another dorky item.)

Door number one was black with snowflakes and a green decorated tree. But it wasn’t warm enough, big enough, and it had that ‘pill stuff’ on it. Eww, that’s nasty, and I hate that stuff.

Door number two was big enough, definitely ugly enough, and a cotton/raime mix. And whatever raime is, they used to make a lot of it. And this sweater had no pills and was warmer and hand-knitted, for Pete’s sake! So door number two it was.

Door number three was tempting because I LOVE to bake, (see the rolling pin and gingerbread man in the apron pocket?) and I love doily lace stuff (well, I used to; it’s kind of dorky now too) so I had to pass. Plus it had that ‘pill’ stuff too. (I really hate that stuff.)

Needless to say, I got on that trolley, and I was dressed to the nines. It was glorious. On the other hand, my husband went in his flannel shirt and jeans. Sigh. No ugly sweaters in a size extra large tall at the last minute so that was that.

I have to admit I was just a wee bit disappointed because I wasn’t the “belle of the trolley ” as two others attending were wearing blinking light sweaters! I can tell you what; ‘Ugly Christmas Sweaters’ have come a longggg way in the last 25 years.

And to prove it, I’ve included some pretty snazzy and ugly and unique ones here for you to peruse. Enjoy.

So in the end we really got a swell deal because my son is gonna wear the sweater I wore to HIS Christmas party cus it’s ugly and big enough (even though the arms are a little short for him) and its generic. Who doesn’t love a tree and toys and ‘raime’ for Pete’s sake!?!


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