Don't Rush Out to Buy a New 'Ugly' Christmas Sweater

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sad dog in ugly Christmas sweater outfit with christmas tree in background

Photoboyko / Getty Images

There are ways to have your Christmas sweater fun without driving fast-fashion pollution.

My introduction to the Christmas sweater phenomenon was through the movie Bridget Jones's Diary. You probably remember the scene, when Renee Zellweger as the eternally-awkward Bridget encounters Mark, played by Colin Firth, both wearing horrid Christmas "jumpers" at her parents' annual get-together.

It wasn't until this year, however, that I realized ugly Christmas sweater parties are an actual thing. Last weekend I was invited to a Christmas Sweater and Onesie party. I picked up a red cardigan and dorky reindeer brooch at the thrift store, only to realize upon arriving at the party that people take this stuff seriously! Everyone was decked out in the most outlandish of sweaters or one-piece fleecy pajamas. Most of the couples were matching.

Clearly I've been living under a rock (or in a very small Canadian town), since The Guardian reports that the Christmas sweater market is worth £220 million annually (US $294m) in the United Kingdom. While the idea is fun and silly, it does have significant environmental repercussions, mostly because these sweaters are unwearable the rest of the year -- at least, for any self-respecting, somewhat-fashion-savvy individual.

Research by environmental charity Hubbub says that one in three under-35s buys a new Christmas sweater every year. The Guardian says:

"The survey of more than 3,000 UK consumers shows that 24% do not want to be seen in the same jumper as previous years while 29% say they are so cheap that they might as well get a new one every year. One in four jumpers purchased last year were either binned or are unlikely to be worn again. More than a third (35%) of people admit they only wear their jumper once in the festive period, so many are as good as new."

While I'm all for having a good costume party, surely there's a better way to do it than this. The fashion world is notorious for being the second most polluting industry after oil, and a big part of the reason is the way in which people buy clothes, as if they were disposable. The Christmas sweater phenomenon is a good example of this.

Instead of rushing out to Walmart or Target to get a super-cheap sweater for a one-night event, Hubbub wants you to #GiveAKnit about what your Christmas sweater means. Visit the thrift store first. Organize a sweater-swap, either before the Christmas season or as part of the festivities. People can bring what they've got and anyone can borrow it for the night. Make your own ugly sweater by reworking one you have (here are some fun DIY ideas). Or (gasp!) simply wear the same old sweater again. Honestly, who's going to remember, or even care, after a few cups of rum-spiked eggnog?

You could also do what my party host did and wear a one-piece onesie with the tag left on it... because he planned to return it the next day. (I'm actually kidding. Please don't do that.)