Eight out of 10 people own a Christmas jumper, including the royal family in Madame Tussauds ©Press Association Images
Eight out of 10 people own a Christmas jumper, including the royal family in Madame Tussauds ©Press Association Images

The story behind your Christmas jumper

Most will have one hidden in the back of a cupboard. Reluctantly or otherwise, it is pulled out a few times a year for office parties or family reunions.

Whether tasteful or garish, featuring reindeer or penguins, loved or loathed, the Christmas jumper is part of seasonal celebrations.

Last year there were nearly 9.3m internet searches for Christmas jumpers between September and December, according to OneHydra, a firm that helps retailers with search engine optimisation. This was up from 6m across the whole of 2014.

A customer survey by clothing company Matalan found more than eight out of 10 people own a Christmas jumper.

Taste aside, the rising appeal for seasonal knitwear could have negative implications. By January, many Christmas jumpers will end up in landfill, says Tom Cridland, CEO of an apparel company that bears his name.

“[Some people] deliberately go out and buy the ugliest Christmas jumper that they can then throw away,” he said. 

As a remedy, Cridland’s firm has created the 30-year festive jumper. The item is guaranteed for three decades and will be either repaired or replaced if anything happens to it over that time.

Cridland admits it is less of an undertaking to guarantee an item of clothing that may only be warn a few times a year, but he describes his Christmas jumpers as “a campaign against fast fashion itself”.

“In this case it’s more to encourage people to hang on to their Christmas jumpers for a bit longer, for us [manufacturers] to try and do a little bit better with the design than I think people are doing at the moment, and just trying to make it a slightly nicer garment that people hang onto,” he said. 

The same 30-year guarantee is applied to all of Cridland’s clothing, an offer so enticing to the environmentally conscious that Leonardo DiCaprio has bought two pairs of the company’s chinos.

That said, DiCaprio, the UN representative on climate change, has not yet placed an order for a Christmas jumper. 

The seasonal boom in the apparel industry has wider implications for sustainable supply chains, said Tasmin Lejeune, CEO of the Ethical Fashion Forum (EFF), an industry body that supports sustainable and ethical procurement.

“In the end this is about good buying practices. It’s about not changing a design decision at the last minute, being aware that changes or last minute orders are going to impact the supply chain,” she said.

Christmas creates demand for a fast turnaround, which puts a huge amount of pressure on factories and their suppliers. “We tend to see increased overtime during this period, often exploitative conditions for workers where the pressure and the stress means that conditions become almost unbearable,” said Lejeune.

The risk of unapproved subcontracting also increases when pressure is put on suppliers.

“When you’re sourcing from a supply chain where there are serious economic issues, where you can always find somebody who’s willing to work for a lower amount, then having unethical buying practices and not thinking through the way you buy can have serious implications down the supply chain,” she said.

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