I have a real problem with ugly sweater contests, and since they seem to become more prevelant every year, I thought I’d share. I hate the irony, the waste, the mindless consumerism of the whole thing.
First of all, I don’t think some people---most people? Any people? ---understand that we’re being ironic here. And that can’t help but be divisive. The last thing we need in this day and age is for some peopl to be thinking they’re doing the world a favor being cheerful, and others to be celebrating them in some odd negative way for being so out-of-fashion that (OMG!) they’d wear such a gaudy, awful sweater. Meanwhile, the first person takes the compliment, while the second one doesn’t mean it at all.
Awkward enough, but when you enshrine it in a contest, it compounds the problem. It reminds me of the classic Simpsons scene where the bullies are discussing some taunt just made: “Are you being ironic?” “I just don’t know anymore.”
Then there’s the waste. Despite the persistent popularity of things like the “Kon-mari” method, Zen buddhist asceticism, and the 30/30 challenge (google it), we somehow want to urge people to keep sweaters they don’t need, and in fact don’t even like? Garments they actively think are ugly? My company specifies (for good reason I suppose, although, if that’s your excitement…) that for its ugly
sweater contest, it must be a different ugly sweater every year---no repeats. Now, if there was ever a
justification (“my dead great aunt made this and I can’t possibly get rid of it, but isn’t it horrible?”) for
these games, it has been shot down. Which leads, then, to…
The consumerism. Target (and I’m sure many, many others) sells brand new sweaters at this time every year, DESIGNED to be “ugly”. One imagines, not TOO ugly---not ill fitting, or pilled, etc.---but made on
purpose to be disliked and worn ironically. Ever heard of the internet tag #firstworldproblems? If you
haven’t, then good for you---but the point stands. With the number of homeless and poverty-stricken
people even in THIS country (at least until Trump makes it great again), we are making utilitarian goods
(sweaters are, in fact, meant originally to keep you warm---little known fact) not to meet our needs, but
to be funny. Volunteer at a soup kitchen sometime. Not that amusing. (though more than you might
expect, but I digress). I haven’t checked, but I hope the companies that make these abominations
donate their proceeds to charity. And if they don’t, you certainly should if you buy one. There are bins