The Washington Post

How to rock ugly holiday sweaters

Thanks to Brian Clark Howard you don’t have to wade blindly into these snowflake-filled waters.

Howard, who co-authored Rock Your Ugly Christmas Sweater, a printed homage to the tackiest of holiday parties, has some tongue-in-cheek guidance for the uninitiated.

Through his research, he’s gleaned the best sweater trends with the help of his co-author, Anne Marie Blackman, who sells ugly sweaters via her site,

Here in no particular order are Howard’s tips for standing out amidst a mass of brightly-colored wool.

1. Twinkle: “I think people are sort of rocking it uglier this year,” Howard says. “The arms race of ugly...if you want to compete in that, you really need lights.”

Howard has seen everything from basic white lights to colors to flashing lights. But if you really want to take it to the next level of obnoxious, “you want colored flashing lights.”

Remember to match your lights with your bows. (Anne Marie Blackman /

2. Accessorize: “Ugly hats are really good,” Howard says. What I often wear, I got really cheap online— its an ugly sweater trucker hat.” He adds that a Santa hat or a Menorah-inspired hat is always a crowd-pleaser.

Don’t forget the Hanukkah sweater. (Anne Marie Blackman /

3. Embellish: For revelers who want to avoid spending money on an outfit, Howard suggests embellishments in the form of safety pinned ornaments or holly.

Tinsel also makes a good adornment. ( Anne Marie Blackman/ )

Finally, Howard has good news for devotees of the ugly sweater party. He says from his perspective the tradition, “has been growing exponentially,” since he first wrote a story about it for a lifestyle site, The Daily Green, in 2008. And Blackman’s traffic is up nearly four times over last year’s, Howard says.

The Christmas sweater trend, it seems, is here to stay—as eloquently forecasted in this 2001 essay by Style writer Hank Stuever.

For more inspiration, see Blackman’s photos below. And contribute your best shots to our tacky sweater gallery here.

Pets also make great accessories. (January Meyer/

Or can join the fun on their own. (Alli Valentine / Rock Your Ugly Christmas Sweater)

Tree skirt and candy canes. (Anne Marie Blackman/

Brian Clark Howard in a multi-dimensional embellished sweater. (Gloria Dawson, Courtesy of Brian Clark Howard)

Ugly Christmas Sweaters: Your photos

Cara Kelly manages the development of editorial tools and presentation for new products and user experiences. She previously worked in the Style section, following the completion of her MA in journalism at American University.


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