There is a rather alarming article in the Guardian today about the waste created by the Christmas Jumper. The article, entitled “Christmas jumpers add to plastic pollution crisis, says charity” points out that “12m jumpers are set to be snapped up this year, despite 65m already languishing in UK wardrobes.”
I don’t know how much this tradition carries over into other countries, but Britains are in love with the novelty Christmas jumper. (For those unfamiliar with the term, a “jumper” is what Americans would call a “sweater”.) At least a third of people under 35 will buy a new novelty Christmas jumper every year, and will likely wear it only once. We even have a Christmas Jumper Day – Friday December 13th this year – which supports the charity Save the Children. Millions of people will search for the newest and silliest novelty jumper to wear on that day.
The article cites research by the environmental charity Hubbub, that 95% of these garments are made wholly or partly from plastic. A full 44% were made entirely from acrylic. The article notes a recent study that found “that acrylic was responsible for releasing nearly 730,000 microfibres per wash, five times more than polyester-cotton blend fabric and nearly 1.5 times as many as pure polyester.”
The message to consumers from Sarah Divall of Hubbub:
“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. Fast fashion is a major threat to the natural world and Christmas jumpers are problematic as so many contain plastic. We’d urge people to swap, buy secondhand or rewear, and remember a jumper is for life not just for Christmas.”
I would suggest an additional way to save the environment: knit your own Christmas jumper, and then wear it many times. Keep it forever! I also don’t see why Christmas jumpers are supposed to be “ugly”. Perhaps if you had a beautiful Christmas jumper, you might wear it more than once! I picked out some lovely Christmas sweater ideas in this post two year ago. Here are a few more:
Tidings by Vicky Sedgwick:
Branches & Buds Pullover by Carrie Bostick Hoge:
Thorvald by Arne & Carlos:
Vinterskov by Karie Westermann:
Remember, a jumper is for life!
Beautifully written, as usual. Love your selection of sweaters, as usual 🙂
Thank you, Carolyn!
It seems to be a very British tradition. This does not exist in France, maybe because people wouldn’t be caught dead in an ‘ugly’ sweater (although Bridget Jones’ fans might try to replicate this trend). In any case, you’re right: a jumper is for life, so might as well knit a lovely one. Your selection is made of timeless classics that one can enjoy for many years.
One of the best things about France is people watching. I love the style, and the confidence people display in what they wear and who they are.
The tradition in the US seems to be Ugly Christmas Suits, which is also ridiculously wasteful and harmful to the planet. Thanks for writing this. We need to spread the word about the damage Fast Fashion does to the planet.
Reading that one acrylic jumper releases more than 700k microplastic scraps has also finally cured my self-striping sock yarn habit. Not sure if I’m happy or sad about this, but it needed to be done. I really can’t justify socks with 25% nylon going in the wash every week, no matter how great the patterns are or how long the socks last.
Long live Slow Fashion and handcrafted, 100% wool holiday sweaters.
Yes, and socks are one of those things that must be washed frequently, so I see your point. I also must say that I don’t get the novelty ugly clothes bit – life can be ugly enough, why add to it with your outfit?
Christmas jumpers drive me nuts. Don’t understand why it’s so popular as there are some truly hideous creations out there to buy. Agree with you that homemade would be better. Long live the homemade.
If you had a hideous Christmas jumper that was not plastic, and that you wore every year, then it would just be bad taste and not a climate crime. But the readily disposable kind drive me nuts, too.
“climate crime”….we should use that phrase more often
I 100% agree with what you’ve written and so glad you’ve put your post out in the world. I’ve noticed you never see the naff Christmas jumpers on sale in charity shops so obviously they are either binned or as you say sitting around in people’s cupboards. You’ve shown a selection of some beautiful jumpers here.
Ugly Christmas sweaters are a little bit of a thing here as well. But most of the people I know who wear them either actually wear them all winter or take a normal sweater and fasten nonsensical decorations on it for the day it’s needed. Maybe it’s just our location – Alaska tends to be a little more practical with that sort of thing 🙂
I can recommend another lovely holiday sweater – Julgran by Untangling Knots at https://untangling-knots.com/project/julgran/