You’ve fallen for it, you knit

LP Columnist Barry Freeman
LP Columnist Barry Freeman
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My sole ‘Christmas jumper’ wasn’t actually that bad.

Tasteful, at least, the comedy deriving from its age inappropriateness.

I mean, what does a punkish lad in his early 20s want with a petrol blue M&S v-neck cardigan?

Still, it was a gift from one held near and dear, and so it came to pass this item was dutifully worn to the pub on Boxing Day, thereby earning its stripes as a ‘Christmas jumper’.

Because once upon a time that is what a ‘Christmas jumper’ was.

An item of unwelcome knitwear, given in good faith, usually from a close older relative, worn publicly at the first opportunity in order to (a) make them happy and (b) give your mates a laugh.

As fine an example of a true grassroots folk tradition as post-industrial Christmas has yet thrown up, in my humble opinion. Just something a few people started doing without being told to, which then spread under its own steam.

Irksome, then – at least to those of us still there to be irked during the festive period – to see what has become of this formerly charming contemporary custom.

Corrupted – as are most genuine expressions of human creativity, in the end – by the profit motive.

An unholy union of retailers and manufacturers has co-opted and monetised the ‘Christmas jumper’, in so doing divorcing the practice from its familial, social origins and reversing its meaning. They’ve trashed it, in short.

The ‘Christmas jumper’ has now morphed into a self-consciously ‘wacky’ way to show the world what a fun and crazy individual you really REALLY are.

Worst of all, we now choose our own, thereby annihilating the original ‘joke’, the hideous ‘Christmas jumper’ of yore being funny precisely because you DIDN’T choose it.

Someone you loved dearly – a Gran, a Mam – invested thought and money buying or knitting you a garment which in normal circumstances you wouldn’t be seen dead in but felt morally obligated to wear.

To paraphrase Greg Lake, who died last week, they sold you a dream of ‘Christmas jumpers’ – and it’s a nightmare.