'Tis the season of hot chocolate, snowball fights, and of course, the infamous ugly sweater party. Chances are you've been invited to one, if not more, ugly sweater shindigs this holiday season. Here's a question to bear in mind as you go about your party-outfit-planning: is this truly an ugly sweater?

The dress code for such festivities is clearly implied in the title. You may be thinking that there seems to be an abundance of ugly holiday sweaters available lately and obtaining an appropriate outfit should be no problem.

This, my friends, is where you are sorely mistaken.

You see, the sweaters spilling from department store shelves may call themselves ugly, but the plain fact of the matter is that they are not. Some of them are even downright cute. A truly ugly sweater is not so self-aware. A truly ugly sweater was designed with every intention of being a very nice sweater; perhaps, something a teacher would wear to school on the last day of classes before winter break.

Now consider this: why would a designer willingly create an ugly sweater. How can sweaters that are really and truly ugly be in such high demand? They are not. The sweaters that fly off of racks during the holiday seasons are, in fact, designed for the sole purpose of being worn to an ugly sweater party.

These faux-ugly sweaters do not have that unique sense of rejection and despair that is intrinsic to a genuinely ugly article of clothing. An intentionally ugly sweater violates the spirit of the ugly sweater party because it knows it is supposed to be ugly, and therefore has achieved its aesthetic purpose, negating the ugliness of it all.

Let's look at some examples. Take this "ugly sweater"


Look at the smile on this model's face. Does she look like she believes this sweater is ugly? No, not in the slightest. You have the sheep who's very aware of how cool he looks, a holiday-themed pun, and colors that don't clash. No, this sweater works too hard to be ugly. In its valiant efforts to be ugly, it has failed miserably and settled at awkwardly adorable.

Now this sweater, on the other hand:


You can imagine your elderly neighbor knitting this for hours to wear to Christmas day Mass where she sings in her church choir. The appliques have been carefully selected and applied. The stitching is deliberate and shows effort. This, my friends, is a sweater made with love and care; this sweater does not know the extent of its own ugliness. This is a truly ugly sweater.

If you want to continue wearing those cutesy "ugly" sweaters this year, I don't blame you. It takes a brave soul to don a sweater that is worthy of the title "ugly." Just remember, though, that with each mass-produced, ironic holiday sweater you buy, there is a genuine ugly sweater that has been abandoned and is awaiting a buyer who will never come. That's on you, folks.