SCRANTON - They're usually hand-knit, bright red or green, covered in Santa Clauses, snowmen, tinsel, and sequins - and this year, they were a must-have item for holiday parties.
The once tossed-aside or reviled ugly Christmas sweater has mounted a comeback, and local thrift stores could hardly keep them on the racks.
"As soon as they come out on the floor, they're gone," said Jessica Huegel, a cashier at the Goodwill store on North Keyser Avenue. "We started putting them out in September, and by the first week of November, they are gone."
The ugly sweater's popularity reached such a fever pitch this holiday season that the NFL, the NHL, and Major League Baseball all hopped on the bandwagon, creating and selling ugly sweaters bearing team logos and colors.
Ugly sweaters even have an unofficial holiday: National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, celebrated on the second Friday of December since 2011.
Huegel welcomed the trend, especially if it drives customers to Goodwill.
"Any sort of thing that will help us reach our sales goals and help more people is good," she said. "If you buy at Goodwill, it helps people who are physically and mentally disabled."
While Goodwill's stock of ugly sweaters had been cleaned out, the Volunteers of America store in Wilkes-Barre still had a few to spare in the days leading up to Christmas. Store manager Brian Cann said his store always put out Christmas-themed clothing, and this year's selection, placed on two racks near the back of the store, was "pretty well picked-over."
"About a week or so ago, we saw some college students come in," Cann said recently. "They went right back there."
Cann said he saw more than just the college crowd coming for holiday apparel.
"People like them," he said. "People like to dress for the holidays."
Huegel and Cann offered their tips to find the ugliest of ugly sweaters.
"Anything that's really busy," Huegel recommended. "Especially if there's sequins. Sequins are always a winner."
Cann suggested searching for the gaudiest sweater on the rack with "all kinds of stuff on it."