• 12.21.10

The Ugly Christmas Sweater Renaissance, Fueled by Google

Garish seasonal tops are making a massive comeback, with huge year-on-year growth for at least one major seller, thanks to AdWords. But what is the origin of the ironic holiday sweater party?

The Ugly Christmas Sweater Renaissance, Fueled by Google
ugly Christmas sweater party

Christmas is around the corner, and that means one business is doing uncharacteristically well this time of year–the one that makes garish wooly tops. “We are just buried in ugly Christmas sweater orders,” Jennifer Chadwick of Vintage Clothing tells Fast Company.


What is it about ugly sweaters, and how does a small business ride the wave of demand? There follows an illustrated case study.

The unlikely partner in this decidedly low-tech industry: Google. The ugly Christmas sweater boom is fueled by Google juice. A Google Insights graph shows how searches for “ugly holiday sweaters” soar in November and December, and how they’ve multiplied year over year.

Rusty Zipper has been using Google AdWords since its inception. Three million visitors have come to the site over the years via Google AdWords clicks. In any given month, AdWords clicks represent 20% of the site’s traffic. “Although we’ve been in business for 15 years, over 70% of our orders go out to new customers,” says Chadwick. “AdWords plays a big part in helping us reach these new customers.” Rusty Zipper takes a very broad bidding strategy, bidding on well over 20,000 keywords.

Chadwick of Rusty Zipper is in the dark about the trend. “We wish we knew!” she says. “If your readers have any information on early ugly Christmas sweater parties (or photos attending a Christmas Sweater party prior to this decade), they can email me at”And let us know in the comments. After all, this is an important piece of Christmas scholarship–and a trend that’s only just beginning.

[Images: Flickr users lisa_at_home, erkillian5, wrestlingentropy, dpstyles. God bless you, every one.]

About the author

David Zax is a contributing writer for Fast Company. His writing has appeared in many publications, including Smithsonian, Slate, Wired, and The Wall Street Journal.