These days it feels like wearing a festive knit is totally synonymous with the start of our Christmas celebrations. You certainly can’t deny that Christmas jumpers are everywhere and so popular that they even have their own special day
! But has it always been this way? Where did Christmas jumpers come from? British Christmas Jumpers investigate!
What is the History of the Christmas jumper?
Unsurprisingly it all starts in the chilly Nordic countries of Northern Europe. Originating in fifteenth century Norway, heavy, patterned jumpers were traditionally made by women from local sheep’s wool.
This region has a long heritage of incorporating stylized animal forms and foliage shapes into textiles. In fact, the distinctive ‘selburose’ snowflake motif that is featured on many Nordic knits, was traditionally based on a rose with eight petals.
Nordic selburose motif on traditional mitten
Author: Tore Wuttudal Licensee: Samfoto, Supplier NTB scanpix
British Christmas Jumpers Nordic Pattern
When did Wearing Christmas Jumpers Become Popular?
Whilst popular in the Nordic countries for hundreds of years, it wasn’t until the last century that these traditional knits became more mainstream.
Cultural historian Dr Benjamin Wild
writes that “The jumpers became widely known because they were associated with the Scandinavian sport of skiing.”
According to his blog, Dr Wild says, “The influenza epidemic that ravaged the world between 1918 and 1919, claiming the lives of more people than the First World War, boosted the sport of skiing – and its style – by encouraging a greater focus on health and wellbeing. As affluent travellers returned from the ski slopes of Europe with their colourful knits, the humble jumper was elevated to a symbol of luxury and glamour.”
Christmas Jumpers in Fashion
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the modest Nordic knit gained a following of rich and famous Hollywood stars, including Clark Gable, Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman
. As today, people emulated their idols by knitting their own Nordic style sweaters and the fashion became a fully mainstream winter look.
The Christmas jumper as we know it (fun, bright and a little bit silly!) truly came into its own in the 1980s with the rise in the popularity of cheaper acrylic yarns and the fashion for bold patterns.
As the decade progressed the ‘wacky’ Christmas jumper became a bit of a bad-taste joke as many of us who received one of their granny’s knits on the 25th of December, will agree!
Christmas Jumpers Today
The Christmas jumper has always appealed to the quirky British sense of humour, and since Colin Firth appeared sporting an ‘ugly’ reindeer sweater in the film Bridget Jones’ Diary in 2001, the Christmas jumper has gained a not-so-cult following
Indeed, environmental charity Hubbub
estimated that 12 million seasonal sweaters were sold in the UK in 2019.
So, over 100 years on from the first popular Christmas jumpers, it seems that our love for festive knits shows no signs of fading!