published Monday, November 26th, 2012

Christmas sweaters can be cringe-inducing but fun

Southern Bell riverboat staff member Dillon May, Nick Williams, Jordan Reinert, and Jon Reinert (with Opie Joe), from left, will be on the Tacky Christmas Sweater Contest Cruise.
Southern Bell riverboat staff member Dillon May, Nick Williams, Jordan Reinert, and Jon Reinert (with Opie Joe), from left, will be on the Tacky Christmas Sweater Contest Cruise.
Photo by Dan Henry.

ONLINE

Show us pictures of your tacky Christmas sweater. Upload your shot to Facebook.com/TimesFreePress or tweet it to @TimesFreePress.

WHERE TO BUY

myuglychristmassweater.com

vintage-ugly-christmas-sweaters.com

uglychristmassweatershop.com

IF YOU GO

What: Tacky Christmas Sweater Contest Cruise.

When: Boarding, 10:30 a.m.; departure,11 a.m. Saturday.

Where: Southern Belle Riverboat at Ross's Landing.

Information: Visit ChattanoogaRiverboat.com or call 266-4488.

It's as much of a Christmas tradition as the inflatable Santa in the front yard — the tacky Christmas sweater.

Many department and thrift stores sell these seasonal garments, there are numerous websites dedicated to them, and they're also sold on eBay and Etsy.

Carrie Fitzsimmons, Creative Discovery Museum public relations coordinator, is fond of the Christmas sweater she purchased several years ago at Goodwill.

"It has grown on me. It has multiple snowmen on it and is very bright blue," she says. "I purchased it because it was tacky but also because it was a 'cute' tacky."

She's enough of a fan to own two of the holiday-themed garments and doesn't hesitate to wear the sweaters in public.

"People tend to be more forgiving around the holidays," she says.

Last year, Fitzsimmons nabbed first place in the tacky sweater contest for museum staff.

"I plan to keep my title," she says. "My co-worker found me a hideous Christmas sweater. It is black and has Christmas bulbs with sequins all over it. I'm excited to wear it. However, there has been some talk around the office, and I think I'm going to have some tough competitors.

"The holidays can be stressful for a lot of people, and the tacky Christmas sweater contest gives everyone a good laugh," she says.

The staff of the Southern Belle is holding a tacky sweater contest for riverboat passengers this holiday season, says General Manager Joy Reinert. The contest was the idea of her children, Jordan Reinert, 21, and Jon Reinert, 24, who work on the Southern Belle as reservations manager and assistant manager.

"Jon had a tacky Christmas sweater party for his friends last year, and Jordan always laughs at her Grandma's sweaters during the holiday season," Joy says. "Of course, Grandma laughs about it too, and is in on the fun."

With a grandmother who owns about 30 of the sweaters, Jordan Reinert "says that she either jingles or lights up during the holidays."

Even the family dog, Opie Joe, has an ugly Christmas sweater, she says.

But there are fans of the sweaters who insist that they don't have to be tacky. Angie Williams Daly of Chattanooga has a sweater that was handed down to her.

"I have a beautiful cream sweater with a Christmas tree on the front with ornaments and chains for tinsel," Daly says. "My ex-mother-in-law wore it every Christmas. She loved the holidays and was always full of life."

Since 2010, the popularity of the tacky Christmas sweater is being challenged by Vardagen, an Indiana-based company that sells the "ugly Christmas sweater T-shirt" in eight varieties for adults and children.

"The T-shirts are a great alternative to ugly sweaters because they're comfortable and trendy while still keeping everyone's favorite ugly sweater designs," according to company spokeswoman Karen Wood.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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