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Local personalities wear ugly Christmas sweaters proudly

WFAA meteorologist Colleen Coyle shows off her ugly Christmas sweater at WFAA Studio in Dallas.
WFAA meteorologist Colleen Coyle shows off her ugly Christmas sweater at WFAA Studio in Dallas. Star-Telegram

To paraphrase Rod Stewart, every ugly Christmas sweater tells a story (in fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if Rod has an ugly Christmas sweater or two in his past). We got a few DFW notables to tell the stories behind their Christmas sweaters. And sometimes, it is more than one sweater.

Sybil Summers

Midday host, KVIL/103.7 FM

A veteran of “ugly Christmas sweater” parties, Summers has taken matters into her own hands.

“Everybody’s got their moms who don’t throw away their clothes, and you go digging through them and find some terrible sweater from the ’80s with all these colors, and it’s all faded,” Summers says. “That’s what I wore to my first ugly-sweater party. I had a friend who used to throw ’em every year, so as the years progressed, the outfits got worse and worse — I mean better and better.

“Then it became a contest to see who could outdo each other,” she continues. “There was a trophy involved. So then I started making them. That’s when you get real serious, when you make your own homemade sweaters.”

And, yes, she has made more than one — including one for her husband, local sports writer/blogger Richie Whitt, whom Summers worked with at sports station KRLD/105.3 FM “The Fan” (Whitt is also a former Star-Telegram writer).

“They’re not really matching, but I made [us] sweaters the year before last,” Summers says. “Of course, you also have to do the dangling schoolteacher Christmas earrings and antlers and all that fun stuff. You have to go all out. That’s the whole point.”

The sweaters are largely reserved for parties, but Summers has worn them at Christmas-oriented station events. She even interviewed rock band O.A.R. while wearing one. But it can still be embarrassing when people see her out of the context of a party or an event.

“I think they take you seriously,” she says. “They think you’re legitimately wearing it. There’s safety in numbers, and if you’re by yourself, just rockin’ the ugly sweater, they think, ‘Oh, that poor girl has no fashion sense.’

“But I don’t care about what people think. I would rather get a giggle. Or, if I do catch somebody giving me side-eye, I’ll usually say something like, ‘Merry Christmas! It’s an ugly sweater! I’m getting you one for Christmas, too!’ 

Colleen Coyle

Meteorologist, WFAA/Channel 8

Coyle’s mom always dressed her up when they went to see Santa. In fact, they had a bit of a routine.

“Same Santa, my entire life, at the mall,” says Coyle, who’s originally from Atlanta. “Had everything prepared, the list, everything. But I had to have my Christmas outfit because that was our Christmas picture. She always bought me these ridiculous sweaters that had these jingle bells on them and stuff.

“I remember one year I had a jingle-bell sweater and gold leggings, which now are back in style but back then, not so cool. And this huge jingle-bell sweater. And then she always wore a funny outfit, too. But back then, it wasn’t supposed to be funny. It was legit style.”

That past came in handy after Coyle moved to DFW five years ago. Coyle asked her mom to send her a couple of her old sweaters, without telling her why. Then Coyle sent home some pictures.

“She’s like, ‘Oh, my god, you wore my sweaters!’ ” Coyle says. “Then she says, ‘Wait — are you at an ugly Christmas sweater party?’ And I was like, ‘No, of course not!’ 

Coyle’s mom saw through the ruse, but now Coyle keeps the sweaters around. “I think they’re pretty stylish,” she says. “They even have the shoulder pads in them.”

Coyle and her husband have worn sweaters for Christmas parties and Christmas cards, and even though some might deem them “ugly” sweaters, she finds the beauty in them.

“I have to say that I think there are worse ones out there than the two that I have,” she says. “These are actually kind of cute. I usually pair them with something else. My mom and dad always come out here for Christmas and they’re always bringing matching necklaces that we wear for the Jingle Bell Run and we have Santa hats and stuff, so they usually get paired with things that are a little more ridiculous.”

Stefon Rishel

Executive chef, Max’s Wine Dive, Fort Worth

With his fauxhawked hair sporting blue and green colors, Stefon Rishel is already a striking-looking dude. Add an ugly Christmas sweater vest to the visuals, and he becomes the portrait of awesomeness.

“It’s my wife’s grandmother’s sweater, actually, and it’s the most hideous thing I’ve seen in a really long time,” Rishel says. “We’ve told her multiple times. She’s aware — unknowing is not the word, but she doesn’t really care.”

Rishel says it’s a combination of his wife’s two least favorite things: Christmas sweaters and sweater vests. (His wife is Briana Sundberg Rishel, daughter of former Texas Rangers catcher Jim Sundberg.) He’ll wear it to parties, but that’s about it.

“I hope people don’t see me in public in it,” he says. “I try not to get caught in it unless I’m at the party it’s intended for. The [trend] is growing, that’s for sure. The problem is, if you get separated from your party, you just look like an idiot in an ugly Christmas sweater. It doesn’t have any context. It’s got purpose when there’s, like, six or seven of you.”

Nevertheless, he has spotted them “in the wild” in DFW, worn by people with no evident sense of irony.

“All the time,” he says. “We saw a couple of people wearing them in August this year. What’s the purpose of that?”

Smoothvega

Rapper, producer and promoter

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Smoothvega is never, ever again wearing the sweater you see here.

“I’ve always wanted a cool, sports holiday [or] Christmas sweater, so maybe I’ll get one this year, but as for this specific sweater … never again,” Smoothvega says.

Fair enough — the Fort Worth native does have to keep up appearances (there are not a ton of hip-hop entrepreneurs walking around in tacky Christmas sweaters, after all).

But if his wardrobe doesn’t skew seasonally garish, he does have a special place in his heart for the holidays.

“A lot of my greatest memories [involve] Christmas,” Smoothvega says. “From opening up my first pair of LA Lights [athletic shoes] to getting my first computer to now being able to see my children open up the gifts that they asked Santa for — it truly is the best time of year.”

Smoothvega isn’t just about receiving gifts, but also helping others receive them.

On Dec. 11, the rapper, producer and promoter will host his eighth annual toy drive at the historic Ridglea Theater. This year’s event will feature performances from Immortal Technique and Chino XL. (Previous years have seen Nelson Cruz and Terrell Owens, among others, drop by.)

Admission is free (you can download tickets at immortaltoydrive.eventbrite.com), and unwrapped toys will be collected at the door. All proceeds from the event (fans can also donate online to gain access to a meet-and-greet with Immortal Technique) benefit the All Church Home for Children.

“The event holds a special place in my heart,” Smoothvega says. “Since I started doing music, I always knew that this was something I wanted to do. It’s just an amazing feeling to see so many people come together to raise toys for the less fortunate. Since the [2009] passing of my mother, I hold the annual toy drive on the weekend of her passing, which makes it that much more personally special for me.”

It’s a sentiment so touching, especially in a season that can become warped by greed, that not even an ugly Christmas sweater could ruin it.

 

Joel Fitzgerald

Fort Worth police chief

With only a month and a half on the job as Fort Worth’s top cop, Fitzgerald walks the halls of the North Side substation donning the standard-issue uniform, gun, cop mustache — oh, and ugly Christmas sweater vest.

Which raises the question among the officers: Will this be the new vest the department is going to? No worries or sorry to disappoint — depends on your perspective. It’s just the chief getting into the Christmas spirit.

The sweater vest only adds to his persona. The red vest reads “Bah Hum Pug” with a pug wrapped in Christmas lights. But Fitzgerald is no Scrooge.

“I love the holidays,” he says. “As soon as Thanksgiving is over, it’s all about Christmas.”

Christmas is big in the Fitzgerald house. It includes a large meal prepared on Christmas Day by his wife, Pauline, who is also in law enforcement, so they run a tight holiday ship. Lights on the house, a home filled with Christmas decor that has followed them to the various places around the county they have called home — and only a real tree will do.

Christmas is important to the chief. “My fondest memories of Christmas will always be Midnight Mass with my grandparents,” he recalled.

His grandfather passed just over a decade ago, so holding holiday traditions is a way of honoring those childhood memories. “We have ornaments that we’ve had for years, and I look forward to pulling them out every year.”

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