Holiday Dress Code

The popularity of “ugly Christmas sweaters” as a pop-culture trend began to emerge almost a decade ago, and licenses across a wide variety of property types—from Bob Ross and Betty White to Bob’s Burgers and the Buffalo Bills—have had a strong presence over the past five years or so.

Not surprisingly in such a crowded market, there has been a steady diversification of offerings. Here are some of the trends that stand out in 2018:

  • Bling. A growing number of sweaters feature items affixed to them, ranging from drink cups (on a “beer pong sweater”) to a mirror (so the person standing in front of the wearer becomes the “ugly” design). The Grinch appears on one of many sweaters with plush attached to the front and/or back (e.g. the sweater image has plush legs or a plush tail). The NFL and A Christmas Story are among the properties connected to a wide assortment of Bluetooth-enabled light-up versions.
  • Two-person sweaters. Tipsy Elves (among others) sells double-sized sweaters that two people can fit into simultaneously, including licensed versions such as a Captain Morgan style. This takes the popular offering of sweater sets—two separate sweaters meant to be worn by a couple or two friends at the same time, featuring Santa and an elf or similar pairings—one step further.
  • Create-your-own. touts an Ugly Sweater Customizer that allows purchasers to build their own designs by selecting a combination from a list of colors, patterns, and phrases and adding their own uploaded images.
  • Holidays beyond Christmas. Several marketers are highlighting Hanukkah- and Kwanzaa-themed examples, as well as versions featuring both of these holidays along with Christmas. Tipsy Elves offers a licensed sweater for Festivus, the fictional holiday from Seinfeld.
  • Continued product expansion. Over the past few years, the holiday sweater trend has extended into knitted hats, t-shirts and sweatshirts, socks, leggings, caps, slippers, dresses, and more. Notable in 2018: Outdoor-appropriate footwear including boots from Timberland and running shoes from Brooks.
  • Property debuts. Some of the licensed properties entering the world of ugly Christmas sweaters for the first time this year include Pillsbury (an immediate sell-out, licensor General Mills says) and Fortnite videogamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins.

A handful of marketers have become specialists in the licensed holiday sweater market, with Tipsy Elves,, ThinkGeek, Forever Collectibles (FOCO), Ripple Junction, and Fifth Sun among them. But other companies, such as promotional agencies (The Forecast Agency, with Home Alone) and retailers and etailers (Zappos, with Whoopi Goldberg), have also joined the party.

RaugustReports will be taking a break for the holidays; we will be back to our regular Monday and Thursday schedule on January 3, 2019. In the meantime, if you would like to read our take on 15 of the key trends that had an impact on the licensing business in 2018, see our annual Year in Review. The top trends of 2017 are included on the same page, in case you are interested in a look back. Happy New Year!

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