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Elizabeth Landers | Campus Chic Report

The perfect ugly holiday sweater

Published: Monday, December 10, 2012

Updated: Monday, December 10, 2012 15:12

A year ago at Thanksgiving I was home in Tallahassee, basking in the warmth and bracing myself for the deluge of work and final exams that was surging towards me.

After sifting through a pile of sweaters to bring back to the colder weather at Tufts, my mom came in with a sweater of the most perfectly ugly proportions. Padded shoulders, quarter zip, blouson sleeves, complete with a red background with green bows knit all over and a snowflake charm.

“Oh, I’m so glad you’re wearing that sweater again, Elizabeth! I used to wear it all the time for the holidays,” burst my mother, thrilled to see it being put to good use. What she didn’t realize was the completely ironic way young adults are sporting the beloved Christmas or general holiday sweater.

I constantly lament the fact that finals and the end−of−the−semester workload fall during the holiday season. With Hanukkah starting over the weekend and the spirit of Christmas starting sometime during the frenzy of Black Friday shopping, the holiday season is well underway by the time we return to campus. And, of course, that means the party circuit kicks off as well.

As college students, most of us are not attending office holiday parties where one co−worker inevitably drinks too much punch and we’re not going to neighborhood Christmas parties to carol. But Tufts certainly throws enough eggnog parties, Greek formals and TDC after−parties to keep everyone preoccupied and procrastinating on their ELS group projects. Cue the holiday attire.

As I mentioned earlier, the ugly holiday sweater has become a staple of most festive college students at Tufts and across the country. I see pictures of my friends at major Southern state schools rocking similar attire, so rest assured that Tufts isn’t the only school to think this is hilariously hideous.

A guy friend confessed to me that he purchased a brown snowflake sweater a year ago on eBay “for the season.” He claims that some take it seriously, while others understand that it’s just another ugly holiday sweater.

My mother’s comment reconfirms a sneaking suspicion I had that what our generation deems as mostly unattractive and unflattering used to be considered festive and holiday−chic. No matter your religious affiliation, almost every family has a family picture of everyone decked to the nines in some sort of fuzzy, patterned sweater. Some are hand knit by a loving auntie or grandmother, while others are purchased from thrift stores like Goodwill or the Salvation Army Store. Regardless, what used to be sincere is now silly.

If you go the ugly sweater route, there are still some ways to rock the look without deteriorating to “early ’80s” unsightly. Since these sweaters are usually a boxy fit, slim on bottom, for men and women alike, it keeps the look from being too old−fashioned. I think slim dark jeans or khakis present a good option for the gentleman. For the ladies, a sparkly skirt with tights or velvet leggings is a little dressier but still comfortable.

Extreme enthusiasm might consist of wrapping yourself in strands of holiday lights, ribbons and bows (hair, tops, sweater, etc) and wearing Santa hats galore. I’ll stick to heaps of sequins, shine, metallics and cherry reds, though the zeal is admirable. As long as no one goes the SantaCon or NQR route, we’ll all be merrily celebrating the holiday season — and we’ll be doing it in style.



Elizabeth Landers is a senior majoring in political science. She can be reached at

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