We all see them coming to life at this time of the year. This is the season for ugly sweaters. Ugly Christmas Sweaters are a staple clothing item, and they are in the closets of Americans in every state. These 20th-century misfits are the darlings of theme parties and the icing on the cake at office parties. There’s social status written into the genes of ugly sweaters. We mark our cultural territory when we wear an ugly sweater. People know we’re hip, cool, badass, and as some people say, stupid! But there is comfort in stupidity, especially if the sweater comes from cashmere or a fine European wool. That’s the kind of stupid we love. But the ugly sweater manufacturers are cranking out today is a different kind of ugly. In fact, the ugly is so different there’s a National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day in December every year. The date this year is December 15, 2017.

In order to understand the different aspects of ugly in sweaters, you need to figure out why any sweater manufacturer would make them in the first place. The ugly sweaters in the 1950s are the grandfathers of all ugly sweaters. The 1950s ugly sweaters weren’t just for Christmas, retailers were selling them at full price with the pretty sweaters. In the 1980s, the ugly sweater went to Hollywood. On his sitcom, Bill Cosby put on a sweater that no one but a comedian would wear. The Urban Dictionary calls ugly sweaters, “Cosby Sweaters,” because the hideous, oversized gem Cosby put on gave the sweater fashion credibility. Ugly was a family trait in some of the 1980s sitcoms, and nothing says ugly better than a color junkie, pull-over monstrosity that deserves a leading role in the local Goodwill Store.

The real ugly sweater boom is still in progress. Retailers can’t get enough ugly in their stores because the ugly Christmas parties are the bomb right now. Retail sales figures are through the roof, and the supply of these ugly, but psychologically comfy sweaters sell out quickly. In fact, the people who procrastinate usually find themselves going through an old chest of clothing looking for an ugly-enough sweater to wear.

Now that this super-long fashion fad is now a member of the clothing “Hall of Fame” it would be nice to know which came first? The ugly or the sweater? And just like the egg analogy theirs is no clear-cut answer. But for those who really know the genesis of these freak of knitting machines, the answer is simple. The sweater makers who thought red, green and white jingle bells on a sweater was a good idea must have also thought the world is flat. The ugly idea came first, and the ugly design using polyester and stiff wool sweater came next. But even though these Christmas beauties have Christmas in their name, they are much more versatile and wearable now. The mark of a well-dressed person is knowing when to pull out their latest ugly sweater masterpiece.