Advent calendar 11: the jumper

‘…like the red cups at Starbucks or the hideously prolonged CGI Coke advert cute-fests, the Christmas jumper is just the latest incarnation of cynical yuletide marketeering.’
Harriet Walker in The Guardian

Today’s image: the Christmas jumper

Let’s first check what a ‘jumper’ is in this context: in British English, this is not a kangaroo, nor a pinafore dress, nor slang for your car’s jump leads. It is a knitted sweater. We do use the word ‘sweater’ in UK for general purposes, but in this context, for some reason, it is always ‘Christmas jumper’ – possibly because ‘jumper’ has a cosy, old-fashioned association to it. This is despite, as the above quote suggests, being a modern seasonal development.

So, having defined terms, do we agree that this garment is a cynical marketing ploy by the fashion industry to make more money? The epitome of vulgar commercialisation, or creating a bit of fun and camaraderie.

For myself, I can see two sides to this. True to say, I am not myself keen on dressing like a toddler in a lurid garment that adds five pounds – though relatively tasteful versions of the seasonal sweater are available. But the Christmas jumper does seem reflective of two elements. First, charity and giving and second, piercing the gloom with a splash of colour. Once it was the brightness of scarlet berries and candle flame; now it’s, er, the chemical jab of vermilion polyester; featuring a light-up Rudolph nose as optional.

Christmas sweaters for dogs:
going too far?

In terms of charitable giving, let’s take the fairly recent introduction of ‘Christmas Jumper Day’, introduced in the UK and Ireland in 2012 – and this year on 11th December, the day I post this. It’s probably not popular with those who dislike enforced jollity, particularly in the workplace. It must be said, though, that by introducing this national event, the charity Save the Children has raised millions. And modern creation or not, my own kids are accustomed to this annual invitation to go to school not in uniform but in woolly reindeer. (This, by the way, is accompanied by the traditional annual run-round to grab a couple of new jumpers because they’ve grown out of last year’s, now utterly despise it on fashion grounds [my daughter], etc.)

The main issue, to my mind, relates to our throwaway culture and to ‘fast fashion’. Merriam Webster defines fast fashion as ‘An approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers.’ In turn, as we recognise, these cheap clothes quickly wear or fall out of fashion and are thrown away. Not only that, then tend to contain non-biodegradable plastics.

Last year, the environmental charity Hubbub found most new Christmas jumpers contain plastic, up to 95% of them from popular High-street stores do so. Added to that, around a third of people, apparently, buy a new jumper each year. Sarah Divall of Hubbub commented: ‘We don’t want to stop people dressing up and having a great time at Christmas but there are so many ways to do this without buying new… We’d urge people to swap, buy second-hand or re-wear, and remember a jumper is for life not just for Christmas.’

A re-wear it is then. Looks like I’ll be pulling my own jumper out for its one-off annual outing. This year to be worn on camera for all of ninety minutes during a Zoom meeting at work. It’s around seven years old. I heartily wish I could say it’s a hand-knitted artisanal creation of pure wool that I’d be proud to be seen fashioning on any winter’s day. It’s not. But hey, at least it’s not on its way to landfill.

As another option, hubbub also has some tips to DIY a Christmas jumper here:

What’s your view: Christmas sweater as a cheerful bit of fun, or a cynical marketing tool?


Harriet Walker, ‘Christmas Jumpers – a festive stitch-up’, in The Guardian, 22 December 2013
Save the Children Christmas Jumper Day
Rebecca Smithers, ‘Christmas jumpers add to plastic pollution crisis, says charity’ in The Guardian, 6 December 2019
Hubbub website and sustainable Christmas campaign
Image acknowledgements
Main image Prawny on Pixabay
Smaller image ChristianaT on Pixabay

6 thoughts on “Advent calendar 11: the jumper

  1. My friend’s husband likes her to knit him a Christmas jumper every year – while mine would not have been seen dead in any jumper I knitted! I have never possessed one, but I wished I did the other evening as our Zoom camera club Christmas party included a prize for the best Xmas jumper.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 🙂 I have my own and only – probably ever! it is handy to be able to pull it out once a year as and when occasion demands. I complimented a colleague on Zoom today on having a quiet and tasteful jumper, then he stood up to reveal a gaudy row of Father Christmases.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A bit of fun and camaraderie, all the Stagecoach bus drivers on my commuter run are wearing them 🙂 ………………… what a surprise (not) Harriet Walker works for the Guardian!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I tend to agree – for heaven’s sake, all traditions were new at some point, and we all have our preferences. I like the fact the Stagecoach drivers were brightening up the commute and probably raising some money – and when you think the service bus drivers have been providing through Covid-19, and at risk. As I say, my only concern is the mass consumerism – but a Christmas jumper and environmental friendliness can co-exist!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. i had Christmas jumper once… it was fun. I prefer a new dress tho, we never had this jumper/sweater-tradition :))

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agree on the new dress – if you’re going to buy something, get an item you a. want and b. will wear multiple times. As I say, my one life-time Christmas jumper works hard!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close