When did we all start wearing Christmas jumpers? Somehow over the years they have become ubiquitous - as much a part of the festive wardrobe as a little black dress or an ill-fitting rental tuxedo. But when you're forking out for this season's novelty (which can't venture out of the wardrobe for more than a couple of weeks before it is discarded), it's tempting to wonder whether this is the best way to spend your money. Fortunately, there are some cheap options.
Almost twenty years ago, when Bridget Jones's Diary was first published and Mark Darcy was stranded at a party in a hideous Christmas jumper, little did we know he would be a pioneer that would start a trend that by 2014 would engulf the nation.
At this stage, the jumpers are everywhere. Next has produced a range which features everything from the ubiquitous cute robins and reindeer, to a marginally more fashionable Fairisle pattern. ASOS stocks a dazzling range, including one which exhorts people to 'Have a Sick Christmas', one with a snowman in a baseball cap labelled Gangsta Xmas, and even a throwback jumper featuring Mickey decorating a Christmas tree. For as little as £20 you can join the festive party in style.
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However, not everyone sees this as fantastic value for money. As a fashion purchase it makes no sense: the experts emphasise that the best way to get value for money is to buy items which can be worn regularly in a number of different situations - not sit in a drawer for 11 and a half months of the year.
A decent alternative is to try the supermarkets. At Asda, the Christmas jumpers have already hit the shelves. The range is 62% bigger than last year, and within a week they have sold over 1,000. By Christmas they expect to have sold in excess of 10 million of them.
There are some real bargains available too. The Save The Children range (launched to support the charity's Christmas Jumper Day in December) starts at £14, and includes everything from an understated holly pattern to a giant reindeer. For men, the range starts at £12 - which includes a Save The Children turkey jumper, and a range of more tasteful Fairisle numbers. And for children the Save The Children range starts at £8.
Sainsbury's, meanwhile, is going for a starting point of £20 for men, and £7 for children. For women their current range errs on the side of glamorous knitwear rather than giant snowmen, but there's plenty of time for the novelties to hit the shelves. They reported that last year they sold a Christmas jumper every 22 seconds, and this year the buyers have put in an order for five times as many items of novelty knitwear.
The best bargains, as ever, will be available to those who planned ahead. Canny shoppers who picked up their jumper in the January sales, or after the fresh delivery of unwanted jumpers at the charity shops earlier this year, will have picked up something cheery for a couple of quid. If they shopped at the charity shops they will have managed a particularly festive combination of demonstrating their festive cheer, saving money, and supporting a charity. So even if you have to fork out £14 for this year's novelty, at least next year you'll be ahead of the game.
But what do you think? Do you buy a Christmas jumper? Are they a waste of money?
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