When an opportunity presents itself to dress according to one’s true colours, who can resist – whatever the time of year, asks Fiona McCade
WHEN Bridget Jones meets Mark Darcy in the film version of Bridget Jones’s Diary, he is wearing a novelty Christmas sweater with a large cartoon reindeer’s head on it. Bridget professes herself appalled at both the man and his knitwear, but after another 80 or so minutes of pouting, flailing and vainly trying to persuade us that she’s fat, our heroine falls into Mr Darcy’s arms and they live happily ever after. Naff Jumper Man gets the girl. Well, until the sequel anyway.
As Bridget discovered, a gent in a jumper can be a wonderful thing, and if that jumper has a fearlessly festive theme – and may even have been made by said gentleman’s mother – then all the better. Here is a man who cares nought for the vagaries of fashion, whose masculinity cannot be threatened by having “Ho Ho Ho” knitted across his chest in pure lambswool, and who loves his mum enough to allow her to make a fool of him. I’m going weak at the knees at the mere thought of such a paragon.
Tomorrow – not a day too soon – is Christmas Jumper Day. The whole nation is invited to “make the world better with a sweater” and wear their most uncompromisingly merry woollies to raise money for Save the Children. I’m totally on board with this, not only because children need saving, but because I can’t wait to slip into my favourite bright red jumper-dress with black and white snowflakes on it.
When I first saw the Save the Children advert, showing people having fun in their most tasteless jumpers, it suddenly occurred to me that I might be naff. After a nanosecond of introspection, I realised that I am, but had simply never admitted it to myself. That’s why I’d only ever worn my beloved red jumper-dress during Christmas week. Deep down, I knew that outwith the context of the celebrations, my bright redness coupled with my snowflakes would make me a figure of fun. Until now, I’ve only felt safe between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. How sad is that?
This year, I’m coming out and proud on 12 December and – washing days aside – I might just wear my cheery Christmas jumper into February, if I feel so inclined. I tell you, the feeling of liberation is heady.
At long last, the leisurewear that dared not speak its name has stopped being the sole preserve of small children, annoying uncles and Val Doonican. Tomorrow, there will be people wearing yuletide yarns who say they’re just doing it for charity, but I guarantee that quietly they will be loving it and wishing they could do it more, if only they had the courage.
Back in the summer, I wrote about how it’s now permissible to wear socks with sandals. I think the same sweet emancipation has finally arrived for the much-maligned Christmas jumper and, as Save the Children so rightly says, we can “spread the jumper joy” with light hearts and warm torsos.
Like so many things that begin by being ridiculed, Christmas jumpers can now almost be described as mainstream. They were practically taboo; then they were accepted in private; then they were tolerated in public; and now they are positively celebrated. Debenhams alone says its sales are up 200 per cent compared with the same period in 2013.
It takes something like Christmas Jumper Day to give people permission to indulge their heartfelt desires. Now everyone can unleash their inner Perry Como without having to make the excuse that they watch The Killing. However, some of us still need to hide behind the impregnable defences of charity and irony.
In Britain, charity plus irony equals approval. Save the Children’s campaign has made it possible for many people who were ashamed of their love of Christmas sweaters to wear them openly while telling themselves they’re only doing it to support a good cause. Others will wear theirs under a layer of postmodern irony, to show how achingly, knowingly hip they are. What they won’t admit is that they still wear them when nobody’s looking (well, they are so comfy). But whatever the reason, the cruel persecution of Christmas jumper-wearers is well and truly over.
All of which makes me wonder if it might be possible to rehabilitate certain other items of clothing (or just habilitate, for those things that have never yet managed to gain the sanction of society).
While I was extolling the virtues of the Christmas jumper, my husband asked me: “What would you wear if it didn’t matter how weird you looked?” To which I replied: “You mean, apart from what I already wear?” But it did make me think. Like George Costanza from Seinfeld, I have often wished that it were socially acceptable to swathe myself in velvet. I love velvet too sincerely to do this ironically, so my only hope is that some charity decides to have a National Swathe Yourself in Velvet Day, so I can swathe away without fear of reprisals.
Alternatively, I could gather sponsorship for hat-wearing marathons, giving me more opportunities to wear extravagantly huge hats, which is another of my guilty pleasures. I also wish the bustle would make a comeback. National Bustle Day would be a brilliant idea.
When I did a quick straw poll of people who didn’t flinch when I told them about my velvet and bustle fetishes, I discovered that there are some of us who are “ironically” sporting bandanas, leg-warmers, waistcoats and even – wait for it – eye patches, while waiting desperately for a charity to pick up on our enthusiasm. If they can just tell everyone they are doing it for someone else, they won’t be nearly so embarrassed to do it for themselves.
Until I dare parade down Edinburgh’s Princes Street in a red velvet toga (I’m not fussy, any charity would do), at least I can be true to my love of novelty Christmas knitwear.
Naff Jumper People, rejoice. Our day has arrived.