Seize the Day During Ugly Sweater Season!

Ugly SweaterBy: Mike DeWitt

December is finally here and soon we will be swept into a swirling snow globe of love, laughter, family, and magic. This is the month where all of those traits culminate in the greatest get-together that planet Earth offers us: ugly sweater parties. ’Tis the season indeed!

Ugly sweaters are a paradox: the uglier they are, the more beautiful they become. There is really no such thing as an “ugly” sweater this time of year. The more neutral and seemingly normal your sweater is, the less attention you will receive. Not receiving attention at an ugly sweater party is just un-American.

If you want to be the beautiful swan at the party, make sure you’re willing to go all in. Fortune favors the bold.

If you’re worried about where your sweater currently resides in relation to what else the world has to offer, let me introduce you to the Ugly Sweater Spectrum (USS). The USS is on an easy-to-follow 10-point scale ranging from -5 to 5. A score that approaches the fringe on either end of the spectrum is more desired. Remember, with an ugly sweater party you need something that stands out and says “look at me!” That can be acquired through something truly awful or ingeniously crafted. On both ends of the spectrum, it’s a perfectly crafted cocktail of both.

Let’s take a dive into the collage and barrage of color and Christmas:

5-USSUSS Scale: 5

Who needs a sweater when you can have a suit?

This is cool. You are cool, and don’t you dare let anyone else tell you otherwise. When it comes to ugly sweaters, you’re all in. A trip to Goodwill wasn’t enough. No, you needed a full suit and a matching tie to boot.

Yes, the suit is ugly, but yet it emanates cool from its very core. Like that guy in college who you KNOW spent hours perfectly crafting his messy hair. Is it perfect, or is it a mess? It’s perfectly messed up, and it’s the style of greatness all of us mortals wish we could achieve.

This suit makes you the focus of every person at the party. Instagram was made specifically for you in this suit. Enjoy the moment, it’s all downhill from here.

4-USSUSS Scale: 4

Remember, an ugly sweater party isn’t solely about being ugly, it’s about standing out. This sweater is inherently unique in its take on Christmas. First off, cats aren’t the first thing that comes to your mind when you think “Santa” and “North Pole”, yet here we have a cat as the main character on a gorgeous light blue backdrop we call a sweater.

Not only is it a cat, but it’s an evil cat SHOOTING LASER BEAMS OUT OF ITS EYES AND DESTROYING THE NORTH POLE! The elf running away in horror is just icing on the cake as the North Pole goes up in flames behind him. This isn’t ugly. This is genius. This is a sweater you’d wear at least a handful of times during the Christmas season. The colors  are simple and work together seamlessly to make it easy on the eyes. It’s a work of art, and showing up to a party wearing this sweater instantly makes you a hit no matter the audience.


2-USSUSS Scale: 3

Will Smith is one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars and has been around for what seems like an eternity. While Will Smith in his current state is a credible and immensely successful actor, nothing quite touches on cool like young Will Smith.

The ’90s Will Smith was royalty. The man was a Prince for goodness sake! Bel-Air became a monarchy simply because he decided to show up. Throw in retro phones and cassettes littering the background, and this sweater is a winner no matter what the time of year. The only thing making this a Christmas-themed sweater and not everyday attire is the Santa hat.

3-USSUSS Scale: 2

A 2 on the scale is right at that threshold of standing out and falling back into the abyss. Five years ago this sweater wouldn’t even be in the conversation. Five years from now it might fall back to the wayside because that’s the way pop culture goes. But right now, this sweater has power because Game of Thrones has a stronger touch than Midas.

Is the sweater ugly? No. Is it particularly cool? No, but Game of Thrones goes a long way. Trust me.

There is irony in wearing this sweater as winter is already here. Because of that, those who don’t know Game of Thrones might get a slight chuckle. However, those who are in the loop will be filled with instant envy that they didn’t find the sweater first. You will be asked no fewer than 15 times where you bought said sweater. Honestly, just purchase a handful of them and bring them to the party with you. They’ll sell and you’ll walk home with some extra cash.

2-USSUSS Scale: 1

College apparel can never be ugly. A college campus is the one place you can dress as crazy as you like, and as long as it’s school colors it will be deemed “school spirit.” Both of these sweaters could be worn to football games. Now that I think about it, I’ve seen both of these worn at football games!

The sweaters are unique enough because they are more of a novelty than anything. They sway towards the cool side because school spirit is always cool on game day. However, don’t expect to turn any heads or make many waves at your ugly sweater party wearing one of these. The best you can hope for is a “Go Blue” or “Go Green, Go White”, and that’s not a bad consolation prize.

1-USSUSS Scale: 0

This is not an ugly sweater, nor is it particularly cool or interesting. This sweater screams, “I bought this for one reason, and it was solely to have a sweater to wear to this party.” You thought, maybe this sweater is ugly enough, but you toed too close to the line of normality to make any true statement with your attire.

This sweater can be worn once a year, yet it is not memorable. You and your attempt to be ugly and cute will be easily forgotten. Better luck next year.

2-USSUSS Scale: -1

Diving into the negative numbers, especially towards the end of the spectrum, signals a dive for the worst. These sweaters don’t fit the typical definition of cool or hip. These sweaters are going to make you the Belle of the Ball the crazier they become, but if you swing for the fences and miss, prepare for a long evening. Creativity is appreciated.

Scoring a 1 or a -1 is weak. It shows a lack of risk and confidence in yourself. Standing out isn’t important, you’d rather slink into the shadows. This sweater is ugly because there is too much going on, it’s really that simple. What makes this choice even worse is it’s a sweater that was probably purchased for $40 simply to wear to an ugly sweater party. Buying an ugly sweater because it’s aware that its ugly is bad form. Don’t show up giving 50 percent.

-2-USSUSS Scale: -2

This is why ugly sweater parties were created! This right here is a work of art. It is a sweater with no attempt at being ugly. In fact, it was probably purchased as a nice, thoughtful gift. It’s not as crazy as some of the sweaters coming up next, but it’s an original. It’s like watching grainy videos of the first Super Bowl. Was the product as good as it is now? Of course not, but without it there is no foundation to build on. Sweaters like this set the stage for our annual ugly sweater parties. It’s a classic.

-3-USSUSS Scale: -3

We have finally reached the section where truly being ugly can only be captured with imagination and creativity. You can’t buy this kind of awful in a store, it can only be created with hard work and desire.

One second you notice the tinsel and ornaments hanging off a forest green sweater, and then the sweater magically transforms into a Christmas tree with a star on top! Sheer genius! A sweater like this, while beautiful in its own right, cannot be placed on the positive end of the spectrum because it can only be used once. A perfectly good forest green sweater was sacrificed in order to create this tinsel tree of holiday perfection.

Bonus points for creating an ugly piece of clothing while staying within the spectrum of cute. That is flawless execution. Bravo!

-4-USSUSS Scale: -4

Welcome to the deep end. Make sure to dive in headfirst.

This young lady decided a sweater wasn’t enough to satisfy her style. No, a full dress was needed to truly incorporate all of the awful she could get her hands on.

Where do you even start? The long sleeves throw off the feel of a dress that is already riding above the knee. That sweater-dress is odd enough without the add-ons that it could probably win some awards as a standalone. Throw in Psy from Gangnam Style sporting a Santa outfit and the design takes a turn for the worst. The Santa and snowflakes are so distracting that it takes a minute to register that there is no hint of pattern used to spell “Gangnam Style.” Four colors were chosen (red, white, blue, and green) and placed onto the sweater-dress with no rhyme or reason. For all the work put into this, it comes across as a serious oversight.

This sweater-dress is mission accomplished at an ugly sweater party. You will never be forgotten.

-5-USSUSS Scale: -5

We have reached the opposite end of the spectrum to find the greatest holiday sweater of all time. This is USS Hall-of-Fame worthy. You may look at this and think, “He didn’t have a good idea so he just cut a sweater and things fell into place”, but you would be dead wrong. More planning went into the making of this piece of art than went into the Sistine Chapel.

The face of Rudolph had to be perfectly groomed so it was on scale with the nose, eyes, and antlers. But before the grooming could begin, the entire plan had to be mapped out around the nose. Something like that doesn’t fall into place. Extensive man hours were needed to pull off that feat.

While your eyes are naturally drawn to the beautiful red-nosed Rudolph–don’t be ashamed, beautiful works of art are meant to be enjoyed–the perfect cut in the sweater is equally impressive. The sweater has been modified to reveal enough skin to show off Rudolph while also keeping every unnecessary inch of the body kept under wraps. Take a quick glance at the arm sleeve on the right arm. Like men lost at sea eating every part of the fish they catch, this man has wasted no part of the sweater that didn’t need to be.

You, sir, are an American hero and will never be forgotten. Merry Christmas to you!