Updated: Mar 16, 2022
A jumper is for life, not just Christmas, or at least this should be the case. Christmas jumpers are a popular part of many people’s festive traditions leading up to the big day, however most people buy them year on year only to wear them once or twice and then discard them. The majority of Christmas jumpers are mass produced and pushed into the fast fashion economy, they are not expected to be worn again and again and usually this shows in the final product’s quality. These mass-produced jumpers also more often than not contain plastics making them harmful to the environment. This is not to say that you cannot have your fun and buy a Christmas jumper, there are plenty of ways to shop sustainably for all lifestyles and budgets. It is important however, that there is a conversation about fast fashion especially during the holiday season when mass production is in full swing.
One of the biggest issues with the Christmas jumper market is the throwaway culture that comes along with it. When you have retailers persuading customers to buy a new jumper each year it is easy to see where the problem lies. A 2019 study found that 12 million jumpers were set to be bought that year with 65 million already in circulation, clearly there is not any need for this scale of production. The report also found that one in three young adults aged under 35 buy a new Christmas jumper each year rather than reusing previously owned ones. Furthermore, two out of five Christmas jumpers are only worn once before being thrown away, surely there is an alternative to this constant, unnecessary consumption and subsequent waste. Christmas jumpers obviously aren’t made to be worn all year round but that doesn’t mean that they cannot be worn every Christmas for years after first being purchased. Even if you are desperate to switch up your Christmas jumper each year then there are better options than simply buying a brand new one. You can invest a little more money and buy a transformable Christmas jumper which allows you to customise the design each year. If you want to switch it up completely how about donating your old one to a charity shop and picking a new, preloved one up from a charity shop or vintage store, there are always loads of preloved jumpers around at Christmas time. Whatever the option, be inventive and try not to waste.
What makes the fact that so many of these jumpers are wasted worse is the fact that the majority of Christmas jumpers are made from highly unsustainable materials. Of particular concern is the amount of plastic used in the production of these jumpers, environmental charity Hubbub concluded a study of 108 Christmas jumpers from 11 major high street retailers to assess their environmental impact. The plastic fibre acrylic was found in three-quarters of the jumpers tested, with 44% made entirely from acrylic. A recent study by Plymouth University found that acrylic was responsible for releasing nearly 730,000 microfibres per wash, five times more than polyester-cotton blend fabric and nearly 1.5 times as many as pure polyester. However, only 29% of consumers realised that most Christmas jumpers contain plastic. Many jumpers contain sequins, glitter, lights Velcro etc. as well as being made from polyester blends, all intensifying the environmental damage each jumper contributes. The use of plastic or plastic-composites in garment manufacturing often is a side effect of the fast fashion industry, these materials are cheaper and easier to reproduce. It is no wonder then that the fashion industry makes up almost 10% of all global carbon emissions and nearly 20% of wastewater, the relentless overconsumption of fast fashion is the driving force in this. Christmas consumerism, Black Friday and fast fashion all go hand in hand and are not sustainable ways to consume. There are plenty of sustainable and by chance better quality Christmas jumpers on the market these days, not only will they contain less or no plastic fibres, but they will be far more durable than the ones bought on the high street that aren’t designed to last.
Clearly it is still possible to enjoy Christmas jumpers over the festive period whilst still being sustainable and ethical in practice. Such is the increased attention and concern over our climate that now with many things taking the sustainable option is less of a compromise and more of a viable alternative. Whether you stick to one favourite jumper for years, mix and match the design of a customisable one, go thrifting, buy a sustainable jumper or even make your own hopefully you can get in the festive spirit.