Header Image
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
HOW WE TESTED

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

33
Models
Considered
157
Consumers
Consulted
14
Hours
Researched
Category cover

Buying guide for Best men’s ugly Christmas sweaters

At one time in history, knitting and gifting a colorful Christmas sweater was a popular pastime around the world. However, that nostalgic practice eventually evolved into a new (if somewhat irreverent) Christmas tradition: the ugly Christmas sweater.

The best men’s ugly Christmas sweaters are a blend of over-the-top traditional Christmas themes (reindeer, Santa Claus, Christmas trees, etc) and edgy topical humor. They tend to fall into the “so ugly it’s beautiful” fashion category, with pixelated graphics and colors that do not exist in nature.

What was once a small niche market has now grown into a major anti-fashion trend, and there are hundreds of manufacturers vying for attention.

men's ugly christmas sweaters
Celebrities such as Chevy Chase helped popularize the ugly Christmas sweater during the 1980s and 1990s.

How to buy the best men’s ugly Christmas sweaters

What defines a men’s ugly Christmas sweater?

Beauty and ugliness are both in the eye of the beholder, but there are some design elements that help define an ugly Christmas sweater. A traditional or homemade sweater with a Christmas theme could qualify as ugly, but many commercial “ugly Christmas sweaters” are intentionally over-the-top in terms of colors, design, and themes. The images could be heavily pixelated, or the graphics could be irreverent or topical. A men’s ugly Christmas sweater rarely promotes itself as a traditional winter sweater with an unfortunate design or color scheme.

Construction materials

Ugly Christmas sweaters can be made from the same basic materials as traditional winter sweaters, such as wool, cashmere, cotton, polyester, or acrylic yarn. However, novelty versions tend to be made from less-expensive synthetics, not genuine wool or cashmere. Some commercial versions are virtually identical to traditional sweaters and can be worn throughout the winter season.

Consumers who only intend to wear an ugly Christmas sweater for a few hours may be satisfied with a synthetic-based novelty brand, but others will want to consider factors such as heat retention, comfort, and durability. A quality men’s ugly Christmas sweater can still function as traditional winter wear and retail at a traditional winter sweater price point.

Sizing

Most ugly Christmas sweaters follow traditional sizing charts, but some novelty brands require a few upward or downward adjustments for a better fit. When it comes to sweaters in general, selecting a larger size is recommended to accommodate the sweater being worn over a dress shirt or t-shirt. There’s also a school of thought that suggests ugly Christmas sweaters should be deliberately oversized and ill-fitting, much like an authentic homemade gift sweater.

Ease of maintenance

Even if a novelty men’s ugly Christmas sweater is more of a “Break glass in case of an office party” item, it still pays to consider how to maintain it from year to year. Sweaters, in general, often require special handling, such as dry cleaning, gentle machine washing, and air drying. Ugly Christmas sweaters with electric lights require even more specialized care. Ornaments and other accessories will also need to be handled carefully to avoid damage or loss. The dye used in less-expensive novelty sweaters could also stain other clothing, so users should test for color fastness.

Some ugly Christmas sweater fans wear 25 different sweaters, one for each day leading to Christmas.

STAFF
BestReviews

What features do men’s ugly Christmas sweaters have?

Graphics and designs

The ugly Christmas sweater fashion trend came out of a much earlier tradition of hand-knitted gift sweaters. One endearing quality of these homemade sweaters was the simplicity of the design, with pixelated block lettering, Christmas trees, reindeer, and Santas. Many commercial ugly Christmas sweaters still incorporate those themes into modern incarnations. Holiday colors such as bright reds, greens, and whites are also popular design schemes for more traditional ugly Christmas sweaters.

Modern ugly Christmas sweaters are also known for their provocative captions and graphics. Raunchy humor and topical references are the norm when it comes to graphics. Different manufacturers offer different levels of adult humor, and some can be quite offensive for a general audience. Fortunately, most ugly Christmas sweater companies offer a wide range of options when it comes to age-appropriate humor.

Lighting and accessories

Some men’s ugly Christmas sweater manufacturers incorporate battery-powered lighting into the sweater itself, allowing wearers to add a new level of tackiness to the mix. From a single red light for Rudolph’s nose to an entire string of Christmas lights, illumination and animation is always an attention-getter.

Other sweaters include 3D add-ons that add interest or encourage interactivity, such as Christmas-themed badges, ornaments, garlands, or tinsel. One popular item for Christmas parties is a Velcro-enhanced target with removable ping-pong balls as darts. Electronic sound effects or music generators are also available from certain novelty brands.

men's ugly christmas sweaters
DID YOU KNOW?
Commercial ugly Christmas sweaters were first marketed as “Jingle Bell Sweaters” in the 1950s.
STAFF
BestReviews

How do you accessorize a men’s ugly Christmas sweater?

Novelty necklaces

One popular accessory for an ugly Christmas sweater is a novelty necklace with an over-the-top holiday theme. It could feature battery-powered Christmas lights or Christmas tree bulbs or other familiar items.

Headbands

Attachable headbands featuring reindeer antlers, pointy elf hats, a stuck Santa, or other themes can enhance an ugly Christmas sweater, especially during a contest.

Hats

Many ugly Christmas sweater wearers also don a holiday-themed hat, which could be an elf hat, a Santa cap, or a baseball cap with a funny graphic. It could also feature battery-powered lights.

Attachments

Ugly Christmas sweaters can also be enhanced with attachments such as buttons, garlands, or Christmas ornaments. A battery-powered pin with working Christmas lights or sound effects is also a popular option.

How much do men’s ugly sweaters cost?

Inexpensive

The least-expensive ugly Christmas sweaters tend to be novelty items rather than actual winter wear, but there are also some authentic sweaters with graphics in the $20 to $35 range.

Mid-range

Ugly Christmas sweaters retailing in the $35 to $75 range have decent construction and are made from the same polyester/cotton/spandex blends as traditional sweaters. The graphics tend to be bolder, and the range of themes is noticeably wider.

Expensive

High-end ugly Christmas sweaters can cost $75 or more and tend to incorporate nostalgic graphics and patterns rather than topical humor or risque images. They are virtually indistinguishable from other winter sweaters in this price range.

Some interactive ugly Christmas sweaters can be used as the basis for drinking games or other party activities.

STAFF
BestReviews

Tips

  • Consider the audience. Ugly Christmas sweaters are designed to be over-the-top, but some use cutting-edge adult humor or graphics that may be offensive to a general audience. When looking for an appropriate ugly sweater, try to read the room if possible.
  • Play “Dirty Santa” or other gift exchange games. Gift exchange games are popular Christmas party activities, and a men’s ugly Christmas sweater could be the ideal gag gift for all participants. Players could choose a new sweater or steal an existing one.
  • Break down ugly Christmas sweater contests into categories. Instead of declaring a single winner in a pageant-style competition, consider creating several subcategories, such as “Tackiest”, “Most Offensive,” and “Best Accessories”.
  • Shop for couples or groups. Instead of buying individual ugly Christmas sweaters, a couple or a group could coordinate their looks, such as reindeer, bad Santas, or Christmas trees.
men's ugly christmas sweaters
The Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, Canada claims to have sponsored the first Ugly Christmas Sweater party in 2002.

FAQ

Q. How can I improve my chances of winning an ugly Christmas sweater contest?

A. While ugly Christmas sweaters in recent years have become increasingly edgy, there’s still room for traditional designs that are stylistically over-the-top. The humor of the sweater should be accessible to most party-goers. Adult humor is okay, but avoid being offensive or insensitive.

Q.Is there such a thing as a National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day?

A.Yes, there is indeed a National Ugly Sweater Day since 2011. It is celebrated on the third Saturday of December.

Q. Are there any high-end fashion versions of the men’s ugly Christmas sweater?

A. Once the ugly Christmas Sweater became trendy again in the 2000s, several fashion designers, including Stella McCartney, Dolce & Gabbana, and Givenchy, produced their own versions of the novelty holiday sweater. One ugly Christmas sweater brand at Nordstrom’s retails for $600.

 

Other Products We Considered
The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
Our Top Picks