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The Ugly Christmas Sweaters

You have surely seen them lately in the shops around town. They are everywhere, from windows to magazines. They even made it to the French news last week in the shape of a national competition to identify the best of the worst. Yes, I am talking about the good old "Ugly Christmas sweaters".

One of the competition's contestants defined the concept live on national television: the ugly, generally home-made sweater that you are ashamed of, the one that your grandma knitted for you with love and that you feel obliged to wear although you really find it ugly.

On the left, you'll probably recognize Bridget Jones' Mark Darcy who probably helped an entire generation falling in love with reindeer pullovers.

On the right myself, a few years ago with my one-and-only ugly sweater. I have two, actually, one for myself and one for hubby. They both itch, they are totally over-sized and poorly shaped, and so far they have survived 3 Christmas seasons with love (while lovingly cuddling with and protecting our plastic Christmas tree the rest of the year).

So you might think "why the heck is she talking now about sweaters on this page?!"

Like any other trends in "fast fashion", the good old ugly sweater is the item of the moment: it's fun, it's different, and one tries to fight for uniqueness by buying the same as everyone throughout the world. The "ugly Christmas sweater" has become a concept on its own, a fashion label per se. Look for instance how C&A sells them online, although I had not typed the word "ugly" on my google search.

And when the season is over, it will end up on sale. But unlike other "neutral" items, it will be hard to sell any other time of the year. So most probably, it will be either sold again last year (least probable) or just discarded, trashed, or burnt (H&M was pointed out last week for having power plant burn its unsold clothes instead of using coal).

So for 15 to 19 euros you can get yourself an item that you will happily wear once or twice, to hide back the rest of the year or trash shortly after the holidays are over. We could also go a step further and question the production itself, the use of water, textile, chemicals, etc... in the production chain for something that will not last...but Christmas isn't the time to discuss sustainable supply chain management and life-cycle assessment (but shouldn't it, after all?) ...

Welcome to fast fashion and its absolute waste, but this time Christmas-flavoured (so it's cool - yes I am ironic here).

I am not going to cast the first stone: I do have a sweater that I only wear once a year, for a very short amount of time. And it took me some time also to realize the faux-pas in the process and identify why I did this purchase: away from home in the Middle East, it was probably a way to connect back with Christmas that we would spend under a bright sunny blue sky by 30 degrees rather than snow, Christmas trees and family-and-friends dinners. But I try to save myself: when I bought it I knew I would keep it, because I don't find it that ugly after all. And this year I will be in Europe, and there will be a tree, and there will most probably be snow (and if not, it will be at least 30 degrees cooler that in the UAE at this time of the year).

So this year again I will wear my sweater. And if you decide to get yourself one, give it a chance and many years of celebrations with love and as much shame as you want.

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