People at our office are always coming up with events to try to keep the workplace interesting. Recently they announced that, on some date in the near future, there will be an “ugly sweater” contest. With that innocent, well-intentioned decision, they placed the fashion-challenged among us at enormous risk.
The problem is that, once you get beyond a solid colored sweater, there is no sure way of distinguishing an “attractive” sweater from a repulsive one. This isn’t an issue for men’s attire; few guys have a taste for sweaters as vivid and outlandish as those worn by Dr. Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show. Women are another story, however. You may see sweaters with hanging fuzzballs or swaying threads of yarn, scattered sequins, ribbons, or spangles, large Brutus Buckeye figures, bright orange pumpkins, or fake fall leaves sewn on, or blinding abstract designs that could have been ripped from the walls of the Guggenheim. And there appears to be no rule of thumb that allows you to safely place one sweater versus another in the humorous, isn’t-this-a-razz,”ugly” category.
Therein lies the awful risk. A guy might cheerfully tell a fellow passenger in the elevator that their sweater is a sure winner in the “ugly sweater” contest, only to realize from the icy response that the event isn’t until the day after tomorrow. Or he might compliment a co-worker about her lovely ensemble, and then be advised that she thinks the sweater is hideous and certain to prevail in the competition. The opportunities for a colossal faux pas are endless.
The safest course is to stay in your office, keep your head down in the common areas, and avoid any discussion until after the contest day has passed and a period of apparent sweater normalcy has returned.