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Ugly Christmas sweaters a holiday tradition, even for pets

Posted at 3:50 PM, Dec 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-10 09:26:09-05

'Tis the season for all kinds of adorable holiday traditions, but surely nothing beats French bulldogs in ugly sweaters.

The ridiculously cute event in Chicago's Wrigleyville neighborhood is organized by a French bulldog rescue group to raise money for dogs in need of medical care. 

"This is our fourth annual ugly sweater party," said Victoria McElligott, Chicago French Bulldog Rescue volunteer. "It gets bigger and better every year."

McElligott says the get together is so popular it typically generates around $150,000 in donations.

"It's the number one event to do with your pets here in Chicago in winter," McElligott said.

Ugly holiday sweaters have their critics, but the fact that you can buy them in dog sizes shows how insanely popular they have become.

Fred Hajjar co-founded the e-commerce website UglyChristmasSweater.com with his siblings 10 years ago.

SEE MORE: How Did Evergreen Trees Become A Christmas Symbol?

"We've had probably 20% growth every year since 2015," Hajjar said.

They sensed that the holiday sweaters, which had long been tacky and unpopular, were having a moment, and they found a gap in the marketplace.

"In 2011, my brother and I were looking at eBay, and we noticed a sweater selling for $500 — a Christmas sweater," Hajjar said. "We also realized a lot of firms were asking, 'Where can we buy Christmas sweaters?' And a lot of them were on Goodwill or Salvation Army, and we thought, 'Wow, that is very interesting.'"

Today, the company has more than 50 employees and is on track to sell over 135,000 ugly sweaters this holiday season. 

"It's evolved from what was a standard sweater to tons of gimmick sweaters, which include the 3D ones that we sell, ones with a basketball rim," Hajjar said. "The creativity reminds me of a costume in terms of the best one not only wins, but the best one also evolves into wanting to one up yourself every single year."

Back at the dog party in Chicago, the pups whose ugly sweaters got the most looks won their humans a highly coveted prize.

"I feel great because we worked hard for this moment," said Latoiya Aikens, the dog owner who won the contest. "We can't wait to see what we come up with next year."

Come next year, chances are the event will continue to attract more adorable animals with even uglier sweaters.

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