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This Dallas Man Is Obsessed About Ugly Christmas Sweaters

Eric Aasen
Jeremy Turner is the best spokesman around for ugly Christmas sweaters.

When you're going to an ugly Christmas sweater party, the uglier the better. Some are finding the perfect outfit at a pop-up sweater store in East Dallas called the Ugly Christmas Sweater Shop. The owner has attracted national publicity for his sweater love.

The sweaters are covered with birds and gingerbread men and evergreen trees.

These are bad, folks.

Definitely U-G-L-Y.

“We have some with bells on them; we have some with Santa’s beard coming out on them, we have some where Santa’s eyes move,” says Jeremy Turner, the sweater swami. He’s the brainiac behind this pop-up shop.

“Cats. People love cats,” he said. “You find that out very quickly when you sell Christmas sweaters.”

'Come get ugly!'

Turner used to sell vintage clothing out of a bus. A few years ago, a friend told him Christmas sweaters were popular. So Turner bought some. They sold out quickly.

He bought more. Last year, he opened up his store in a strip center on Mockingbird Lane.

“Ugly is for everyone,” Turner says inside his store. “It doesn’t discriminate and the people of Dallas love ugly. I’m so glad, too.  … Come get ugly!”

Turner has sold about 4,000 sweaters so far this season. They range from $20 to $40. He’s sold more than $100,000 worth this season.

Where does he get the goods? Beyond the “North Pole,” he won’t say.

It’s an irresistible media story. He was even featured on ABC’s "Nightline" a few weeks ago. “The beauty of ugly sweaters,” the program declared.

Turner’s far from alone. Across the country, entrepreneurs sell ugly sweaters in mom-and-pop shops.

Celebrities love to wear them and give them away.

Even Jimmy Fallon’s gotten into the act.

“It’s time for a new ‘Tonight Show’ tradition,” Fallon said on a recent show. “It’s time for ‘12 Days of Christmas Sweaters.’”

A trend with some staying power

You can buy the sweaters online at Target. Even the Dallas Mavericks have entered the sweater sweepstakes.

The sweater craze reflects shoppers’ changing tastes, Wendy Liebmann says. She’s CEO and the so-called chief shopper for WSL Strategic Retail in New York.

“It created a whole level of interest around humor and frivolity around the season as opposed to the sort of serious intensity of gift-giving,” she said.

Liebmann says the ugly sweater hasn’t jumped the shark – yet.

“We’ll see if people have enough of those in their closet in 2016 – and they’ve given up on it,” she said. “It certainly has some more legs -- or arms, if you will.”

Back at the shop on Mockingbird, Kevin Chaiken of Dallas was looking for the perfect sweater to wear to Greenhill School, where he’s a senior.

“I’m trying on a light blue cardigan sweater with some snowmen all over it,” he said inside the store. “I think it’s pretty clearly a woman’s sweater but that doesn’t bother me. I think it’s pretty funny. … People will definitely remember me wearing this.”

Giving fashion advice

Darilyn Buggage of Arlington left the store relieved that she found sweaters covered with snowmen and Christmas trees for her sweater party.

“We went to four thrift stores yesterday,” she said. “We went to Wal-Mart. My friend was like ‘I saw this place on Facebook.’  She’s like: ‘You have to go out there.’ As soon as I get off work I’m going to go. This is my first big party so I was: ‘Let’s make an ugly sweater Christmas party.’”

Al Perez sees the excitement every day at the Ugly Christmas Sweater Shop. He’s the cashier. He also gives fashion advice.

“If I see a really awful sweater and it maybe has some gold tinsel or something I tell them to get gold tights or candy cane tights and they all freak out and say ‘Oh my God, you’re amazing,’” Perez said. “I’m pretty good at what I do."

Perez rings up another customer -- a man with a forest green sweater.

“Thank you so much,” the customer said. “Merry Christmas.”

Perez just made North Texas a little uglier. And he couldn’t be happier.

Open for a few more days

The store will be open through December 27. It’s at 6333 E. Mockingbird Lane, near the intersection of Mockingbird and Abrams.  

He even made an ugly Christmas sweater song

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.