New traditions are still joining the Christmas party. From Santa Fun Runs to Google Earth tracking a sleigh for us, we’re quite happy – as a society – to introduce new customs, even if we’re seemingly fed up with these fads as individuals. Step forward: the Christmas jumper. Well it is Christmas Jumper Day…
…Lest we get too irritated at the very concept, let’s remember it’s all in aid of Save The Children. There’s a history of children’s charities spawning Christmas customs. The Christingle service in church (though starting out in 18th century Germany) was revived by The Children’s Society in 1968 (they added the orange & jelly tots).
For the past few years, the Christmas jumper has been on the rise. It will fall again, I’ve no doubt – this Christmas one pub has made the papers by banning anyone who wears them. The link to the hipster trend is likely to be the jumper’s downfall – but enough about its future, this Yule blog is all about Christmas past – so let’s look at the monstrosity’s origins.
Cold winter, blah blah, Norse Yule, blah blah, general warmth, blah blah. Yes they all play their part, but really I think we can pin the blame on those seasonal TV specials of yore. Bing Crosby’s last TV appearance may have given us Little Drummer Boy (with David Bowie), but it also gave us a charming winter cardie. Nothing too exotic or wacky, I’ll grant you, but it was the latest in a bunch of TV appearances by old-time crooners showing off their woollen ware.
Similar seasonal specials from the likes of Perry Como, Andy Williams and Val Doonican found such sweaters – often garish – were a handy way of showing lounge-suited entertainers at rest. Away from their sharp suits, it was like their cosy downtime had a convenient film crew on hand to pick up every impromptu quip and ditty.
But as they aged, so did the fashion – so like your dad trying too hard to dress down from his work suit, the Christmas sweater became an embarrassment. Gyles Brandreth wore them – and then that was it. They were the uncoolest thing on the planet, worse even than the word ‘uncoolest’.
Colin Firth sported one in the Bridget Jones film – in fact on the day of release of my festive history book on which all this is based, I met him in a radio studio, and gave him the first ever copy of the book, telling him he was in the book. For The King’s Speech, that is. Colin reckoned he must be in it for the Christmas jumper, and kicking off that craze. So we’ll give him a nod here, shall we, instead.
Kitsch comes full circle anyway, so the Christmas jumper is back. Even Jeremy Corbyn’s been seen wearing one. Which surely means, they’ll be unfashionable again by this time next year.
If you like these posts, share one on your social media and help us out. All these Yule blog posts are based on my book Hark! The Biography of Christmas – if you haven’t got a copy, get one. Thanks.