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8 Different Types of Christmas Sweaters

Wearing a Christmas sweater outside

The Christmas sweater feels like one of those pieces of fashion that have been around forever. Some of the first Presidents probably wore them, maybe an ancient Egyptian Pharoah had a collection of them. But the truth is, the Christmas sweater is a surprisingly modern trend.

It has also become a trend with its own themes, its own parties, and its own whole culture. So take a look at the different types of Christmas sweaters you can wear and learn how to wear them well.

Jingle Bell Sweaters

The earliest versions of Christmas sweaters appeared in the 1950s, though the designs were very low-key compared to the modern Christmas sweaters you find in stores today. They were called jingle bell sweaters…and they weren’t all that popular. Some frequent TV guests and hosts did embrace the holiday-themed sweaters, including Andy Williams.

As far as the general fashion-buying public, however, Christmas sweaters weren’t much of a thing by any name. Still, the sweaters hung around in stores in sedate, toned-down holiday designs, becoming an occasional gift purchase. Something to buy that person who’s really hard to buy for, perhaps.

And then, the 1980s happened. This was a decade that celebrated ugly fashion like few other decades that had ever come before. Clashing colors, busy patterns, stripes, polka dots, heavy knits…this was just normal fashion in the 1980s. And into this decade, the Christmas sweater fits like a glove. Or a stocking. Suddenly, Christmas sweaters started to appear on the screen again.

Chevy Chase wears one as a much put-upon Clark Griswold in one of his Christmas movie classics, and other pop figures of the era can be seen wearing holiday sweaters throughout the decade. Mostly, they were worn by characters meant to be a bit uncool. And yes, they were still called jingle bell sweaters at this time.

Turn of the Century

Holding twinkle lights wearing a Christmas sweater

The Christmas sweater continued to be a sometimes-seen addition to dorky characters on movies and TV and a grimace-inducing gift purchased at a last desperate hour through the 1990s. But then in 2001 and 2002, opinions suddenly shifted. All at once, the Christmas sweater (now re-branded for a new millennium) became cool for being so very uncool.

Here’s where the history of the Christmas sweater gets tricky. Some credit the surge in popularity to “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” a now-cult classic and sleeper romantic comedy hit of 2001. In two pivotal scenes, more-handsome-than-handsome Colin Firth is wearing very ugly Christmas sweaters. Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones falls hopelessly in love with him and so does everyone else who sees the movie.

And then, Christmas sweaters were ugly and beautiful, cool and uncool, fashionable and unfashionable all at once. According to fashion legend, the first-ever Ugly Christmas Sweater party was held in 2002 in Vancouver, Canada. These heroes started a lasting tradition that has since swept the globe and inspired parties, memes, videos, media of all kinds and fun of all kinds all over the world.

The trend sort of grew from there. Now, everyone has heard of the ugly Christmas sweater. You’ve probably even worn one. There are many, many types of Christmas sweaters out there now.

Even the fanciest and most fabulous of clothing designers have jumped onto the trend, unveiling their own super-expensive holiday creations. So whether you go for the ugliest sweater at the store or you want something chic and stylish to welcome the holiday season, play around with wearing different types of Christmas sweaters. Because if you don’t, you’re totally going to be the only person not doing it by this point.

Making a Sweater

Wool was one of the first materials humans ever used to make clothing. Wool is naturally moisture-absorbent, durable, and insulating. It’s a perfect clothing material, and when knitted, it can be used to create all sorts of warm, wonderful items. Wool is commonly used to make sweaters, though you will also find sweaters made from cotton and from synthetic materials, such as acrylic or polyester.

The first knit tunics that are close to modern sweaters appeared in Scandanavia and the British Isles around the 1400s. It gets cold and wet in these places, and sheep are cultivated throughout these regions, so it follows that they would create the first-ever sweaters. Fashion has sort of run with the idea of knitted tunics ever since.

Different Types of Christmas Sweaters

Sweaters have become a wardrobe staple and so much a part of life that songwriters compose entire odes to them. You’ve probably worn a ton of sweaters in your life. But you may not know how many different types of Christmas sweaters there are for you to try.


AODONG Christmas Shirts for Women Long Sleeve Ugly Christmas Sweater Snowman Elk Printed Pullover Tops Casual Crewneck Sweatshirt Light Blue X-Large

Boyfriend sweaters are actually made for women. These sweaters are designed to look like something a man would wear, but it’s worn by a woman. This means it has a sort of boxy, bulky shape to it as if you took the sweater from your boyfriend’s closet.


Women's Sequin Candy Cane Cardigan - Cute Candy Cane Christmas Sweater: L Black

The cardigan is a sweater that needs no introduction. This is a famous type of sweater that’s characterized by its open design. Cardigans may have a button or zip front or no closures at all. They often have a V neckline, but not always, and they are often seen in Christmas sweater designs.


Pink Queen Women Christmas Santa Claus Print Long Sleeve Pullover Cropped Sweater M

Cropped sweaters are made to be shorter than waist-length, which isn’t the most practical of winter weather wear. Most people wear a second shirt under their cropped sweater. This can be a good look when you want to emphasize your waist and make your bustline appear larger at the same time. Cropped Christmas sweaters infuse a little sexiness into this now-decades-old holiday trend.


For G and PL Xmas Women Custome Bodycon Printed Longsleeve Black Dress Christmas Light 2XL

The sweater dress becomes even more classic when it’s a Christmas sweater dress. Designed much like a long tube, sweater dresses are usually around knee-length or a little shorter, and they hug the body all over. Now imagine it with reindeer dancing all over it.

Fair Isle

Fjallraven - Women's Ovik Knit Sweater, Glacier Green, M

The Fair Isle sweater isn’t a Christmas sweater, technically, but it is multicolored and looks festive enough in a pinch. Named for an island near Scotland, the Fair Island sweater is made with two to five different colors in lively patterns. Fair Isle sweaters are highly recognizable, and they’re famous for being a favorite item among royal family members.


Couple 3D Santa Print Ugly Christmas Kangaroo Pocket Sweatshirt Hoodies Pullover Elf XL

Hooded Christmas sweaters are a fun way to infuse even more holiday cheer into your look. In a Christmas sweater design, the hood is often incorporated into the overall theme of the sweater. This means that your hood may look like a Santa cap, an elf hat, or maybe reindeer antlers. If that’s not fun, what is?


Dale of Norway Vail Sweater, Midnight Navy/Red Rose/Off White/Indigo/China Blue, Large

This is also not technically a Christmas sweater but since the Mariusgenser is always made in a red, white, and blue pattern, it definitely looks festive. This traditional Norweigan sweater started to become popular in the 1950s. The traditional patterns, which are heavier around the shoulders, definitely have a holiday-friendly look to them.


v28 Ugly Christmas Sweater for Women Reindeer Funny Merry Knit Sweaters Vest (Large, Christmas Black)

Almost nothing is preppier than the sweater vest. If you want to spread Christmas cheer but you don’t want to be super warm while you do it, a sweater vest is a great option. Wear it with a collared, button-down shirt to complete your preppy look, and be sure to sip your egg nog carefully. You don’t want any spills on your Christmas sweater vest.

Types of Necklines

Sweaters are knit pieces of clothing worn on the upper body. They often have long sleeves, sometimes not, and they are usually waist to hip-length, sometimes not. But what really determines how a sweater looks is the neckline. There are many different types of necklines, and almost any neckline can be used on a sweater. But when it comes to Christmas sweaters, there are certain neckline designs that you’re going to see more often than all those others.


Sovelen Women's Oversized Turtleneck Chunky Pullover Sweaters Cowl Neck Long Sleeve Winter Slouchy Loose Knit Sweaters Grey

Cowl neck sweaters are distinct. A lot of fabric is used to make a cowl neckline, which looks rather oversized. This is a large collar with a lot of fabric that may be folded over. It’s a warm design, and it’s one you’ll often see in Christmas sweaters.


Blizzard Bay Men's Decked Out Lion Sweater, red/Green, XL

The classic crew neck is a design you will see quite often in sweaters of all types. This is the standard neckline that’s only about an inch wide and rings the bottom of the neck to finish off the top of a standard pullover sweater. You’ll see this neckline in lots and lots of Christmas sweater designs. The pullover sweater with the crew neck is the traditional Christmas sweater design.


COOFANDY Mens Casual Slim Fit Pullover Sweaters Long Sleeve Knitted Zip Up Mock Neck Polo Sweater (01-Black, Medium)

The mock collar sits somewhere between a crew neck and a turtle neck. It’s about three inches high, give or take, and stands up on the neck. This collar covers about half the neck, rather than exposing the neck like the crew collar or covering the neck entirely like the turtleneck.


Amazon Essentials Women's Fisherman Cable Turtleneck Sweater, Cream, Medium

The turtleneck is a tall collar design that covers the entire neck. This is a highly recognizable collar design and it’s one you will find in sweaters that are designed to be very warm. If you’re Chrismtasing in a cold climate, this might be just the right type of Christmas sweater for you.


Women's Wimter Warm Top Long Sleeve V Neck Waffle Knit Off The Shoulder Pullover for Christmas Lightweight Oversized Sweater ELK X-Large

A V-neck sweater has a wide, open collar design that allows your skin or your shirt underneath to show under the sweater. Many Christmas sweaters are made in V-neck designs. The good thing about the V-neck is that you can easily put this sweater on or take it off without messing up your hair!

Types of Themes

Christmas sweaters can have all kinds of themes, even designs, and elements that have very little to do with Christmas or, in fact, any holiday. You can join in on the fun of wearing a Christmas sweater even if you decide you don’t want to wear something that’s actually about Christmas. Just think of it as a Winter Sweater instead.


Blizzard Bay Men's Arms Too Short Trex Sweater, red, Medium

Of course, you can always find a sweater that has Santa Claus, or reindeer, Christmas trees, presents, or any other classic Christmas image you could name. Christmas sweaters with a Christmas theme may even have twinkling lights on them!


LOVE Cute Hanukkah Decorations Dreidel Menorah Chanukah Sweatshirt

Christmas isn’t the only winter holiday. Hanukkah is also widely celebrated around the same time, and many people may wear sweaters with images depicting this holiday and this culture instead. Classic Hanukkah symbolism like stars of Davis and menorahs are often depicted on sweaters with this theme.

Pop Culture

Wild Bobby Merry Chrithmith Mike Tyson Ugly Christmas Sweater Unisex Crewneck Sweatshirt, Black, X-Large

Some Christmas sweaters borrow from pop culture for their designs, which may also have a general holiday or winter theme, along with featuring popular characters from pop culture. These characters might or might not have anything to do with winter or holidays, such as characters from the Marvel or Star Wars universes, which often feature on Christmas sweaters even though they do not appear in movies with any sort of holiday theme.


YESNO Ugly Christmas Sweater for Women Funny Snowman Graphic Printed Pullover Sweaters XL S01 CR121

Some Christmas sweaters have winter themes rather than holiday elements. Snowflakes, trees, mountains, and other wintry images make a great neutral sweater for the November and December holiday season.

Wearing All Types of Christmas Sweaters

There are many different types of Christmas sweaters you can wear with different these and collars and features and designs. Play around with different Christmas sweaters and try wearing them all. This trend isn’t going away anytime soon, so it’s best to embrace it and enjoy it before Christmas sweaters fall out of fashion again.


Dog wearing a Christmas sweater

The Christmas sweater might not be as simple as it first appears. There are a lot of different style elements and themes that go into making a Christmas sweater, which may or may not have anything to do with Christmas. We searched for the most frequently asked questions about Christmas sweaters and got the answers, so you can get the information you need to wear a Christmas sweater perfectly every single time.

Can you wash a Christmas sweater?

What happens when your Christmas sweater gets dirty? Everyone knows that sweaters can’t be washed…right? Not so fast. Many sweaters can be washed, but the process can be a bit time-consuming.

Always check the care label on your clothing before you wash it in any way and follow the specific instructions there. For the most part, you can wash sweaters inside-out in cold water on the most gentle washing machine cycle using very mild detergent. Lay sweaters out flat on towels to air dry.

Don’t hang them up to dry because the sweater can stretch out and become misshapen, and don’t dry them in the machine using heat, as this can cause sweaters to shrink.

What makes a Christmas sweater ugly?

Christmas sweaters have taken on a reputation for being ugly. In fact, you kind of want your Christmas sweater to be ugly. Whole parties and themed events are arranged around the wearing of an “ugly” Christmas sweater. Ugly is one of those things that you know when you see, but not everyone agrees with you. So how do you know if your Christmas sweater is…well, ugly enough?

What makes things look displeasing to the eye, design-wise? Asymmetry often has a way of putting people off. Some designers use asymmetry well to create an effect or draw the eye. In a Christmas sweater, however, it can create an “ugly” look. Colors that don’t work well together, such as red and green, may also be seen as “ugly” by some.

Many people consider an ugly Christmas sweater to be one that is highly and overly embellished. If it has a lot of tassels or pom poms or it’s overly decorated, many might say it’s ugly enough for any holiday party. Very busy, highly intricate patterns are also seen as ugly in some designs.

How should you store a Christmas sweater?

What should you do with your Christmas sweater when you aren’t wearing it to a holiday party? Should you hang or fold your sweater? This is an age-old question that people have been pondering for years. Many people find themselves faced with this dilemma.

The general rule is that if your sweater is heavy, fold it and don’t hang it. A sweater can sag against its own weight, stretching out and becoming misshapen. You do not want this to happen. This is why you don’t hang sweaters to dry, as the weight of the wet material can stretch your sweater out. Lightweight sweaters, on the other hand, can be hung up when you want to store them.

Are Christmas sweaters a bad gift?

Once, Christmas sweaters were one of those bad gifts that someone would grab at the last minute and shove into a box for that last person on their list. But that was back before Christmas sweaters were cool in an oh-so-ironic way. So…are they still a bad gift?

For the most part, Christmas sweaters make for an amazing gift. People wear them now all the time for holiday parties and just for fun. If you’re not sure about sizes, choose a cardigan or a wrap sweater that’s highly forgiving and can fit on many different body shapes. Christmas sweaters are fun to give and wear.


CNN – A cozy history of the ugly Christmas sweater

Heddels – The History of Ugly Christmas Sweaters