‘…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.
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: https://www.hubbub.org.uk/how-to-make-a-diy-christmas-jumper
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 https://www.savethechildren.org.uk/christmas-jumper-day
Rebecca Smithers, ‘Christmas jumpers add to plastic pollution crisis, says charity’ in The Guardian, 6 December 2019
Hubbub website https://www.hubbub.org.uk/ and sustainable Christmas campaign https://www.hubbub.org.uk/pages/category/sustainable-christmas
Main image Prawny on Pixabay
Smaller image ChristianaT on Pixabay