Take off your ugly Christmas sweater and burn it. Don't throw it in the trash, because that's not good enough. That thing needs to be rendered useless, diced into tiny pieces, incinerated. Why? Let's start with the fact that it's not a functioning piece of clothing. It's itchy, ill-fitting, and lets cold air in through the gaps in the knitting. This is clothing failing at clothing's basic job: protecting us from the elements. Also, it's ugly. That's not up for debate; it's right there in the name. And, no, it's not ironic or making a statement, because EVERYBODY IS DOING IT!
The ugly-sweater phenomenon, the Internet seems to believe, started in 2001 in Vancouver when a group of friends decided to throw an ugly sweater party, making this the most dubious Canadian import since Nickelback. And now, almost 15 years later, you have to worry about whether your ugly sweater is ugly enough. Online stores specialize in ugly sweaters and beg you to get them for the whole family. Even the Jews need ugly sweaters so we don't feel left out. You can rent one. You need a book, too, teaching you how to throw a proper ugly-sweater party. The avant-garde kids have moved on to ugly holiday suits. And go ahead and get another one for your favorite pro team, because it's not an official cultural moment until it's been sold back to you by a sports league at a markup for a holographic sticker.
Thanks to ugly sweaters, now you can be chilly, itchy, and uphold the great American tradition of making rich men richer by dropping $69.95 for a team-themed ugly sweater or $84.95 for a player-themed ugly sweater. One company, Tipsy Elves, specializes in ugly sweaters and estimates it will bring in about $8 million! All that cash, spent on garbage! And somewhere in this mess of wanting to be on-trend and worthy of hanging out with the cool kids, everyone forgot why we stopped wearing ugly sweaters in the first place: They suck.
The Detroit Lions defensive linemen recently got ugly sweaters. Do these men look happy?
There are no smiles in these photos! Who poses with a scowl? Someone who's about to wear an ugly sweater and has to contain the urge to call bullshit. These faces cannot deny the truth. The only reason the guys did this was because the idea came from Ndamukong Suh's sister. Missing from Tim Twentyman's writeup: a quote from anyone saying, "Man, I love that sweater!"
The Sacramento Kings also got in the action.
These guys are faking these smiles so hard it's almost cute. Almost.
Look at how sad the puppy is! Even through the Photoshop, this wise puppy can sense that there's some dumb human shit going down in front of him.
This just makes no sense. Is this a reference to the fact that they use cow bells inside Sleep Train Arena? That we just like eating beef? Who knows.
Look, it's impossible to wear an ugly sweater with a real smile. The truth in the eyes betrays you; your brain knows this is ridiculous, that you look stupid. Look at the people in this Target ad:
That woman's face says, "I am not getting paid enough!" And the poor guy is trying to sell it by faking cool. But these are unhappy people. These are people waiting to get their check in the mail and change into something comfortable.
And now, a dispatch from Shinesty's Ugly Christmas Sweater Suit catalogue. Look at this poor guy, trying to act suave while dressed in a suit and matching tie that looks like the bad dollar-store wrapping paper just exploded all over it. Not even the good wrapping paper. The kind that nobody wants. You can now get it in suit form for $99.
And you have to preorder it now to get it in 2015!
Even people who enter ugly-sweater contests are miserable. That shouldn't be possible. We're Americans. We love contests! These are pictures that were entered in the Ugly Christmas Sweater Kit's contest.
They don't look happy! That guy on the left is ready tear to that thing off and give up on humanity. At least he's being honest. He isn't even bothering to fake smile. Let's take a moment to applaud his refreshing honesty.
Another tactic is the pose. If you pose, nobody will notice you aren't smiling. Like this guy, trying to distract with his "I should be a king" face.
Maybe my goofy arms will distract everyone from this monstrous thing on my body!
And finally, that old standby: young people too cool to smile. Think of this as part of the "ugly sweaters getting back to their roots" movement.
None of this has stopped newspapers and magazines from publishing think pieces dissecting the ugly-sweater phenomenon, as though it actually says something about us, or "us." The New York Times asks if they so bad they're amazing; alternately, maybe they're a "respite from the well-documented dramas of the holiday season" the Atlantic wonders. "So showy they're now ironic," boasted one Esquire slideshow. Is this about us finally judging people not by their clothes, but by their personhood? No! Of course not! This just proves we're still stupid. We've made this mistake before. Let's remember that other time in recent American history when we decided to celebrate Lazy Day: the Juicy Couture velour tracksuit.
These things retail for more than $100. For loungewear. Loungewear!
Half the time they fit wrong, and nobody cared!
Paris Hilton wore them! Really, this discussion should end there. As for Juicy, it reportedly is shutting down all its U.S. stores.
It's not too late to turn this around. After all, we all make mistakes. I was once like you. I thought ugly sweaters were cool. Why? Well, for one thing, I once was a teenager, and the teenage brain is the stupidest brain of them all. Also, I grew up in South Florida, and my understanding of how to keep warm in cold temperatures was limited to sweaters and puffy denim jackets. Hey, a sweater looks warm, doesn't it? So if you want to stay warm, do the opposite of what I do; if you want to look good, also do the opposite of what I used to do. Because the only thing I understood less than how to stay warm was how to look good. Need proof? Here's a picture, courtesy of Mama Moskovitz, who dug these up for me because she's clutch:
This picture is from my third-grade science fair, which I did not win with my project entitled "Compared Flow Rates in Syphons of Different Widths."
I should have made a damn volcano; the girl who won made a cool-looking model heart. Life lesson No. 1 from this: When entering a science fair, make something cool. Life lesson No. 2: I don't remember the winner wearing an ugly sweater.
As I got older, the sweaters got worse. Like this picture from high school:
Ahhhhhh!!!! Noooooo!!!!!! Why!!!!!!!!!!
Don't be stuck with these pictures forever, like I am. Burn that sweater and forget you ever bought it. If you have to go to a party, wear something that won't require explaining years later: "See ... at the time ... there was this trend ...." If you're cold, wear something that keeps you warm. Go back to wearing that sweater your grandma knit you once a year for the few hours you see her. Or, if you're me, be glad your Jewish grandma preferred knitting blankets to sweaters (Grandma Eleanor also was clutch). Let's get back to wearing clothing that doesn't suck. Until next year, when my guess is ugly vests become popular, in which case let me pre-dissuade you with this jam from fourth grade.
Top image via Associated Press/Kings photos via NBA.com/Juicy Couture images via Getty/other images from Gloria Moskovitz