Ironic jumper alert. Save the Children’s annual Christmas Jumper Day is making an appearance on December 14, a day when we can all unite and display our questionable taste to help make the world better with a sweater.
Yorkshire stars have been showing their support with appropriate festive spirit and gusto. Leeds boxer Nicola Adams has been photographed by the charity sporting a particularly cute red robin jumper and says: “You just can’t help but smile when you see people getting in to the festive spirit with a great Christmas jumper. It’s such a fun way to help children around the world and it’s so easy – just donate £2 and you can really help change lives this Christmas.”
Other celebrity supporters this year include Anita Rani, Holly Willoughby, Fearne Cotton, Kimberley Wyatt, Gary Kemp, Aston Merrygold, Binky Felstead, Georgia Toffolo and various folk from Love Island. Whether you favour your knitwear with jingling bells, flashing lights, neon tinsel or technicolour baubles, Save the Children is expecting more than five million of us to take part by wearing a festive jumper, signing up and donating £2 to Save the Children (£1 for school children) at christmasjumperday.org.
You don’t have to go mad (the ones here from White Stuff adopt a more subtle approach). But for those who prefer to go loud and proud, the Amazon Fashion UK Christmas Jumper Store is now open and for every jumper bought on amazon.co.uk, 20 per cent goes to Save the Children. Selfish Mother has also teamed up with Save the Children on a collection of cool slogan sweatshirts with simple gold slogans: PEACE, LOVE, HOPE AND JOY. Ideal for the minimalist, these are modelled for the campaign by the likes of Kate Moss and David Gandy.
Now for the history bit. The Scandinavians were probably the first wearers of knits like the winter sweaters we recognise today, with fishermen of the late 19th century wearing jumpers with distinctive bands of geometric pattern to identify which community they were from (and perhaps also identify them if they drowned at sea).
In the early 20th century, skiing became popular as a sport and leisure pursuit and so skiiers adopted the fisherman-style sweater and new patterns and colours came about, influenced by forest landscapes. The Fair Isle sweater, named after one of the Shetland islands, became a must-have when the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) wore them in 1921.
During World War II, home-made jumpers with individual designs became a wardrobe staple. Then, in the 1960s, knitwear got seriously style-conscious and began to be used in Christmas advertising campaigns. In the 1980s, pop culture adopted the Christmas jumper for appearing on Top of the Pops and in festive videos – Wham, Shaking Stevens et al – and really started to go to town with colour and sparkle and garish cartoon motifs. Perhaps because of this, the Christmas jumper became an object of humour, the fun and, let’s face it, tacky item of festive attire that we know and love to this day (helped along memorably by Colin Firth’s excellent reindeer jumper in 2001 film Bridget Jones’s Diary.
These days, the sense-attacking festive jumper is very much a thing, so much so that Ugly Christmas sweater contests are held annually in the United States.
But in recent years, the Christmas jumper has taken on a knowing, ironic appeal which has given it an iconic and playfully sophisticated appeal. Indeed, it is now firmly established as part of our festive tradition, so you can even wear it to the office. On December 14, you can anyway, so do your best, and worst, for Save the Children.