Christmas doesn’t have to be sweet. It can be spicy and fresh and irreverent, as sales at UglyChristmasSweater.com prove.
The Commerce Township-based online retailer sells a huge array of colorful and off-color holiday sweaters — a mix of risqué and memorable ones that say “Jingle my bells” or “Santa’s favorite ho” and some bearing licensed pop culture icons such as Star Wars’ Chewbacca, Pickle Rick and Will Farrell as Elf. There are licensed sweaters and sweatshirts featuring the Grinch (in several poses), scenes from “Home Alone” and “The Office” and there’s even a President Donald Trump sweater. There are also ugly Christmas socks, which appeal to fans and detractors alike, according to company president Fred Hajjar.
Almost all of it is exclusive to the Oakland County company, which designs 90 percent of what it sells, said Hajjar.
Sweaters run around $30-$70, with other apparel (socks, dog sweaters and the like) can be had for $10-$20.
Like waistlines around the holidays, Ugly Christmas Sweater Inc. is growing, with sales expected to surge 35 percent this year, up from the 15 to 20 percent growth of recent years. That means $6.5 million to $7 million in sweaters, holiday pajamas and the like.
“A lot of that has to do with teaming up with influencers online,” said Hajjar.
It added licensed sweaters and apparel from two gaming world superstars whose gamer names are Ninja and PewDiePie. PewDiePie has 74.4 million subscribers on YouTube. “Their fans are really diehard,” he said.
Many retailers, large and small, sell ugly Christmas sweaters, from Kohl’s and JCPenney to a site called Tipsy Elves, which also sells Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day and Hanukkah apparel and holiday sweaters for dogs.
Although holiday sweaters have been around for decades, the trend may have taken off around 2001 when young professionals donned their ironic retro holiday sweaters for ugly sweater parties, according to a Time magazine article. They have become such iconic holiday fun that this year Krispy Kreme created a holiday doughnut inspired by them, and art museums and downtowns host holiday events and bar crawls where guests are asked to wear them.