Call Scrooge if you want to but we’re not big fans of tacky Christmas jumpers. You can be festive – hell, even jolly – without wearing twinkly, captioned knitwear that says, “Tickle My Baubles”. Unfortunately, this is a message lost on a nation where there’s at least one Banter Claus lurking in every office.
In one year alone, Britain alone spent an estimated £220m on novelty Christmas jumpers in the run up to the 25th. And perhaps even more alarmingly, for every four garments purchased, one went in the bin shortly after. That’s not just bad news for good style, it’s beyond the naughty list as far as the environment goes.
Sustainability might be the latest buzzword in fashion, but unlike ‘dadcore’ and ‘man bun’ it’s one that actually carries some weight. In 2015, the fashion’s throwaway culture emitted 1.2bn tonnes of carbon dioxide. For perspective, that dwarfs the amount produced by international flights and global shipping combined. The answer: buy less and buy better. To which the time-honoured tradition of the novelty festive jumper is the very antithesis.
So forget heading to the high street the day before your office Christmas party and picking up something even Noddy Holder would squirm at. Instead, invest in something tastefully wintery, well-made, that can be worn right through to spring, this year and beyond.
We’re calling it the everlasting Christmas jumper. Here are our favourites.
Fair Isle Jumper
Nobody does knitwear quite like the Scots. And here’s the proof. Fair Isle is a tiny wee island within the Shetland archipelago. Not much happens there, which might be why the locals traditionally keep themselves busy by making knitwear. And not just any knitwear, because Fair Isle is also the name of a local technique that allows intricate patterns to be spun into garments. It’s colourful, timeless and pretty festive looking too.
Fair Isle designs tend to be eye catching, so they’re best used as the focal point of an outfit. That means keeping everything else simple and subtle – think less statement jacket, more simple overshirt and plain trousers in neutral colours.
In spite of its sometimes striking appearance, Fair Isle knitwear is a timeless classic as handy for a trip to the slopes in January as it is for carol singing in December. You’ll be able to reach for it winter after winter, rather than just throwing it in the bin.
Cable Knit Jumper
More wintery than Ned Stark drinking mulled wine in an igloo, a cable knit jumper is the perfect cold-weather layer. Ideal for strolling around a Christmas market or blowing off the cobwebs with a Boxing Day walk, these intricately woven seasonal staples are designed to make you feel warm and fuzzy, which makes them a viable alternative to tacky Christmas jumpers.
Cable knits tend to be thicker and heavier than other types of knitwear, therefore they need to be worn with similarly robust garments. Team one up with raw denim and some commando-sole Chelsea boots, for example, finishing it off with a thick wool overcoat.
Because of their thick construction, these woollen warmers are built to last. If you look after it well a cable-knit jumper can be for life, not just for Christmas.
Chunky Roll Neck
This Bond-approved style is a sort of scarf and jumper in one that just so happens to look great with winter clothing. A roll neck can be as jazzy or as low key as you like, but it’ll never not be festive. And as for keeping you warm on the way to and from your Christmas party, there’s no garment better suited to the job.
The knitted classic was built for layering. It looks great worn under a thick winter coat, and when the time comes to shed your outerwear it comes into its own as a top layer. Given the chunkiness of the knit it’s best to avoid anything too textured. Instead, keep the rest of your outfit plain and simple, and let the jumper do the talking.
Shawl Collar Cardigan
The shawl collar cardigan gets a bad rap. Okay, your dad has one. Cliff Richard almost certainly has one, but styled right, there’s no reason this preppy festive favourite can’t be the perfect replacement for the Christmas jumper and make you look good at the same time.
This often-overlooked piece of knitwear is favoured by America’s collegiate elite, which means wearing it as part of an Ivy League-style look is your best course of action. Try layering with an Oxford shirt, then top it off with chinos and loafers. For something more casual, ditch the shirt for a Breton tee.
Statement Designer Jumpers
The ongoing trend in high fashion for big logos, loud motifs and all-over prints has resulted in some luxury garments that double up as pretty effective festive attire. They’re kitsch and colourful, best exemplified by Ralph Lauren’s Polo Bear. These premium options sit right at the opposite end of the spectrum to your traditional Christmas jumpers. They’re a hell of a lot pricier for one thing, meaning you’re not likely to chuck them in the bin come January.
About as minimalist as a shiny red nose, this statement knitwear is exactly that. Allow them to do the talking and don’t make them fight for attention with your novelty antlers and red chinos. Keep everything else subtle and understated. A pair of black jeans and white leather trainers are ideal.