Ugly sweater parties and searching for tradition in all the wrong places

It’s a pretty safe bet that anyone between the age of 18-26 with any kind of social life has been invited to an “Ugly Sweater” party this weekend.

The idea is a novel one.  Wear  an “ugly” sweater (read: sweater from the 1980-1999) that you buy from your designated thrift store. The uglier the better, in a sense.

My first ugly sweater party was in 2008.  I was a freshman in college and wore a sweater I had bought from Marshalls on clearance over the summer.  Our ugly sweaters were neat.  The joke lasted throughout the night, maybe even into the morning.  It was a fun, novel irony.

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I’ve been invited to a ugly sweater parties every year since and each one has been worse.  Not worse in terms of ugly sweaters, in fact the sweaters got uglier, but the idea felt stale.    We had done this a year ago.

My instagram generation is obsessed with creating tradition when there isn’t one.  What the fuck is no shave November?  We feel some need to repeat experiences in the past for the sake of…humor…expectations…social norms…tradition?  I don’t want to go to an end of the world party December 21st, 2014.

Part of it, I suspect is tied to nostalgia.  Buzzfeed and Thought Catalogue constantly remind us how much better life was when we were cruising Nickelodeon and talking on landlines.  It’s almost like we’ve given up on chasing nostalgia.  Now we just create our own.

Life wasn’t better in 1997.  They hadn’t yet invented wireless printing and we wore those pants that zipped off into shorts.

My two examples, the ugly sweater party and no shave November both incorporate 80’s fashion trends.  We like to pretend we are making fun of these past cultural signifiers but I don’t believe that’s our real motivation.

I’m probably over-analyzing and it’s really just about finding another reason to have a party, but its worth noting our need for group repetition. Tonight is the Victoria’s Secret fashion show and there is a drinking game. In 20 years it will be a national holiday.

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About Andy Verderosa

Andy is a writer and copywriter in New York. Follow him at @andyverderosa.
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