The Office: Secret Santa – Ranking Holiday Looks

As this week is arguably seeing a number of Christmas parties ramping up at offices around the world, let’s dust off last year’s concept of exploring the famous workplace celebrations at the Scranton branch of the fictional—and highly inept—paper company Dunder Mifflin on NBC’s The Office.

“The holidays have been kind to The Office,” wrote Nathan Rabin for The AV Club in his contemporary review of this episode—which he bestowed with an impressive A- grade—in December 2009. “Some of my favorite episodes take place on Halloween and Christmas, holidays that afford the show an opportunity to break up the visual monotony of business attire and workaday drudgery and indulge in killer sight gags involving Dwight dressed as a malevolent, mean-eyed elf, Michael as a half-assed God figure and geese running amok in unlikely places.”

One of The Office‘s better of its seven Christmas-themed episodes was “Secret Santa”, midway through the show’s sixth season. Perpetual prankster Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) has been promoted to co-regional manager alongside Michael Scott (Steve Carell) and also finds himself co-leading the party planning committee with Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson). Jim and Dwight seemingly put aside their differences to take on the Sisyphean task of motivating their uninspired office for the company’s time-honored holiday party tradition…

Jim: It is office camaraderie.
Dwight: It is warm feelings.

Ho ho ho and happy holidays!

Tidings are all but good when Michael's "Hurt, Petulant Jesus" goes too far roasting Phyllis in "Secret Santa" (Episode 6.13). Left to right: John Krasinski as Jim Halpert, Jenna Fischer as Pam Beesly, Phyllis Smith as Phyllis Lapin (as Santa), Creed Bratton, Mindy Kaling as Kelly Kapoor, Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute, B.J. Novak as Ryan Howard, and Kate Flannery as Meredith Palmer.

Tidings are all but good when Michael’s “hurt, petulant Jesus” goes too far roasting Phyllis in “Secret Santa” (Episode 6.13).
Left to right: John Krasinski as Jim Halpert, Jenna Fischer as Pam Beesly, Phyllis Smith as Phyllis Lapin (as Santa), Creed Bratton, Mindy Kaling as Kelly Kapoor, Rainn Wilson as Dwight Schrute, B.J. Novak as Ryan Howard, and Kate Flannery as Meredith Palmer.

Series: The Office
Episode: “Secret Santa” (Episode 6.13)
Air Date: December 10, 2009
Director: Randall Einhorn
Creator: Greg Daniels
Costume Designer: Alysia Raycraft


Things have changed plenty at Dunder Mifflin since the first few Christmas parties we spent with the Scranton branch. The first holiday episode of The Office, the second season’s masterpiece “Christmas Party”, included a disastrous game of White Elephant and the first appearance of both Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration, and a topless Meredith. The following year, the Scranton employees were still getting acquainted with their merged colleagues from Stamford and, thanks to Michael Scott’s loneliness, also spent the Christmas party getting acquainted with two hibachi restaurant waitresses in the episode appropriately titled “A Benihana Christmas”.

By the sixth season, the employees of Dunder Mifflin Scranton have engaged in the time-honored office tradition of a “Secret Santa” gift exchange that lends the episode its name, hoping to keep spirits bright despite the prospect of Dunder Mifflin going out of business.

While the employees had far more on their minds, let’s again delve into how the men of Dunder Mifflin Scranton dressed for their office party, aside from the uniformed warehouse workers and Michael himself for reasons to be explored after we determine the rankings. As with the Benihana Christmas episode list, points are awarded for incorporating a festive holiday aesthetic into an office-appropriate outfit without going overboard into the tacky realm, which brings us to the bottom of the list…

9. Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson)

My diabolical plot is on hold for Christmas. My heart just melts with the sound of children singing… not really. I’m just tired. The days are short. I don’t know, maybe I’m depressed.

Infamous around the office for his mustard-colored short-sleeved shirts (specifically of the “spicy brown” variety), assistant to the regional manager Dwight Schrute is hardly the best dresser at Dunder Mifflin Scranton, though being so would hardly align with his aspirations. That said, Dwight puts surprising effort into his attire for this holiday party, though this effort is spent in all the wrong directions. He revives the elfish accessories of a pointy green felt hat—complete with a bouncy red pom—and disturbingly lifelike pointy ears from the second season episode “Christmas Party” (Episode 2.10), then supplements his yellow (perhaps more of a Dijon?) shirt with Christmas-themed suspenders and bow tie.

As Andy Bernard illustrated in “A Benihana Christmas”, poor neckwear choices can ruin an otherwise nice holiday outfit, so Dwight isn’t doing himself any favors with this rigid red-and-green striped bow tie that would make an unwelcome return the following year in “Classy Christmas” (Episodes 7.11 and 7.12). His red suspenders, bedecked with Santa faces, could be forgivably cheesy if they were hidden by his brown suit jacket but, exposed as they are—and worn with a belt, no less!—Dwight looks like he would fit in better as a server at Ed Debevic’s than a party attendee.

Change from “A Benihana Christmas” ranking: -2 (technically still #9 but having two less characters to rank means Dwight’s place at the bottom is essentially a double demotion)

Like one of Santa's elves...

Like one of Santa’s elves…

 

8. Creed Bratton

What if you’ve been really, really bad? More “evil” than strictly “wrong”.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. While Dwight may be a characteristically bad dresser, Creed Bratton was deemed by BAMF Style the surprising dark horse winner with his understated holiday attire in “A Benihana Christmas”. Yet, as Creed’s questionable mental state continues to decline over the course of The Office, so does his sense of taste when dressing for workplace Christmas parties, countering his classic micro-checked brown sport jacket and beige spread-collar shirt with a tacky tie.

oh how the mighty have fallen. as creed’s questionable mental state continues to decline over the course of the office, so does his sense of taste when dressing for office christmas parties, dropping from his ‘dark horse’ win for his “A Benihana CHristmas” style to one of the more reviled approaches to the christmas party in “secret santa” thanks to a tacky tie that says ‘merry christmas’ in a snow-capped block text that alternates green and red on a black ground. it’s a shame, because the subdued micro-check jacket and taupe-ish spread-collar shirt are nice.

Change from “A Benihana Christmas” ranking: -8

Given his nefarious misdeeds, Creed has trouble believing he's in for anything better than a lump of coal.

Given his nefarious misdeeds, Creed has trouble believing he’s in for anything better than a lump of coal.

 

7. Kevin Malone (Brian Baumgartner)

Michael, it’s me, Kevin. Phyllis says I’m too big for her lap.

Christmas-themed ties are tricky territory as they often have a propensity for tackiness, but Kevin at least manages to find one more suitable than Creed’s, though it should come as no surprise that Kevin would be sporting a Jerry Garcia tie… which is considerably better than many alternatives when it comes to yule-themed neckwear. Jerry Garcia silk ties like Kevin’s, with a green Christmas tree covered in lights brush-painted onto a red ground, are always making rounds on sites like Poshmark (see here and here), should one be so inclined to channel everyone’s favorite perverse but well-meaning paper company accountant with a penchant for chili.

The banal Kevin continues to surprise by sporting the tie with an above-average ensemble that elevates him in the sartorial rankings, anchored by a dark brown rope-striped worsted suit more formal than his usual sport jackets and a plain, unostentatious white shirt that doesn’t interfere with his loudly printed tie.

Change from “A Benihana Christmas” ranking: +3

As Kevin mulls over what to ask Santa, episode writer Mindy Kaling can be seen laughing over Brian Baumgartner's shoulder. Kaling also wrote, produced, and directed episodes for the series.

As Kevin mulls over what to ask Santa, episode writer Mindy Kaling can be seen laughing over Brian Baumgartner’s shoulder. Kaling also wrote, produced, and directed episodes for the series.

 

6. Toby Flenderson (Paul Lieberstein)

This must be obvious how wrong this is…

As he did in “A Benihana Christmas”, Toby dons a neatly patterned Christmas-themed tie with a tasteful sport jacket and tonally coordinated shirt with more success than Creed or Kevin. However, the dancing Santas organized in rows over a bottle green ground isn’t quite as tasteful as the more subdued nutcracker tie seen a few years earlier.

Change from “A Benihana Christmas” ranking: -3

Poor Toby could have been in Costa Rica the whole time...

Poor Toby could have been in Costa Rica the whole time…

 

5. Stanley Hudson (Leslie David Baker)

Are we supposed to applaud you for taking a giant diaper off a fake tree?

Maybe I’m just a sucker for Stanley Hudson’s subdued approach to life, which makes it an even greater joy to see the unceasingly bored salesman decked out in a jaunty example of what some may consider the archetypal “ugly Christmas sweater”. Leave it to Stanley to find the path of lowest effort, even when it comes to dressing for his office holiday party, and he can leave his jacket and tie at home to let his festive sweater shine.

And what a sweater it is! A plain light gray ground lets the design do all the heavy lifting, accented with scarlet ribbed crew neck, cuffs, and hem, and a zig-zag bordering the top and bottom of the decorative pattern taking front and center… that pattern being two white reindeer flanking a white snowflake that matches the snowflake on each sleeve. This soft, shaker-stitched knit sweater is a surprising choice for the unenthusiastic Stanley, and it may be a gift from his girlfriend Cynthia that he’s wearing out of obligation… or a gift from his wife Teri that he’s wearing in attempting amends for his relationship with Cynthia.

Change from “A Benihana Christmas” ranking: -1

Stanley looks just as excited to be wearing that sweater as one would expect.

Stanley looks just as excited to be wearing that sweater as one would expect.

 

4. Jim Halpert (John Krasinski)

You can’t yell out “I need this, I need this,” as you pin down an employee on your lap.

Finally, some spirited holiday color from Jim Halpert! After five seasons of sticking with his conservative whites, blues, grays, and browns for Dunder Mifflin Scranton’s myriad holiday celebrations, the new co-manager embraces his position akin to Michael Scott and ties on some welcome red neckwear. It doesn’t go overboard, but Jim’s crimson cravat is just bright enough to look more festive than the average office drone’s classic red “power tie”. Like Creed’s winning outfit in “A Benihana Christmas”, Jim’s all gray suit and shirt provide an easy foundation that lets the tie jump out as a particularly festive addition.

While there may be some fit issues with Jim’s attire, particularly a shirt one size too large, this is a welcome change from the laidback Mr. Halpert and an easy queue for anyone to follow when dressing for the office Christmas party.

Change from “A Benihana Christmas” ranking: +1

THE OFFICE

THE OFFICE

 

3. Oscar Martinez (Oscar Nunez)

I know what I’m doing, Pam.

Even if Oscar doesn’t approach his accounting job at Dunder Mifflin with much enthusiasm, the fact that he dresses for the “Secret Santa” Christmas party in a fun ensemble beyond than his usual office garb shows that he’s putting in an effort to look spirited. Oscar’s corduroy jacket with a duo-toned lilac shirt and tie combination looks festive, if not particularly Christmassy… though one could argue that the corded jacket skews toward olive green, if you’re looking to stretch this ensemble into the spectrum of holiday colors. No wonder Matt the warehouse guy was impressed!

Change from “A Benihana Christmas” ranking: -1

Oscar reluctantly lets Pam play matchmaker for him at the Christmas party.

Oscar reluctantly lets Pam play matchmaker for him at the Christmas party.

 

2. Andy Bernard (Ed Helms)

I begged Dwight and Jim to give me Erin for Secret Santa. And I decided to give Erin the twelve days of Christmas. Is it my fault that the first eight days is basically thirty birds?

Andy Bernard likely puts more attention into how he dresses than any of the men at Dunder Mifflin Scranton, sometimes taking one sartorial risk too many, though this textured, layered outfit shows signs of considered improvement over his ensemble in “A Benihana Christmas”. The cheap tie has gone the way of Andy’s wall-punching anger and the now-affable prepster is decked out in a mix of Brooks Brothers and J. Press, swapping out the shiny polyester-looking striped tie for a more subdued bow tie. Each piece works well together and is fine on its own, from the tan corduroy 3/2.5-roll sports coat with elbow patches and the lightweight cream long-sleeved V-neck sweater beneath it to the colorful (but not garish) striped bow tie and the French blue OCBD.

While festive, I docked a few points for Andy’s surprising lack of holiday color, though one could argue that he addresses that with the bright red scarf as he leads the twelve drummers that complete his Christmas gift to Erin in the parking lot. Still, you’d think a cheesy guy like Andy would show a little more holiday spirit in the colors of his outfit, and Michael’s observation a few episodes later that the way Andy dresses “reminds me of Easter” reminds us that there’s not much specific to the Christmas holiday in Andy’s ensemble. (Unless you consider the forest green sweater vest and navy sport jacket he wore during the cold open tree reveal scene!)

Both pieces of Andy’s neckwear are patterned in the Argyll and Sutherland regimental stripe, consisting of wide navy and forest green stripes separated by thin beige and red stripes. This repp tie and bow tie are still available from Brooks Brothers.

Change from “A Benihana Christmas” ranking: +9

Andy realizes his attempt at a romantic Secret Santa gift isn't having quite the intended effect.

Andy realizes his attempt at a romantic Secret Santa gift isn’t having quite the intended effect.

 

1. Ryan Howard (B.J. Novak)

Uh, I have actually been to Rock Center, and this is nothing like that.

What a long, strange journey the erstwhile temp has been on since we last saw him as a newly promoted salesman in “A Benihana Christmas”. Unqualified for his own ambitions, Ryan Howard quickly let his ensuing corporate promotion go straight to his head until he was removed from Dunder Mifflin in a haze of illegal drugs and fraud. His tenure with the aborted Michael Scott Paper Company hinted at redemption, but—alas—Ryan’s quick success seemed to have arrested his development and nurtured the entitled young man’s resentment and, by the sixth season, he has evolved into a psuedo-hipster hell-bent on exacting revenge on anyone forcing him to perform actual work… namely Jim Halpert.

Thus, it grieves me to say that Ryan does strike a fine balance between incorporating holiday color in a relatively subdued, creative, and tasteful fashion, putting his own unique hipster-informed spin on an office-friendly outfit with a soft moss green sleeveless five-button cardigan, accented by darker olive edges and pocket welts, over a scarlet shirt and dark green two-toned silk tie. I hate to give the top spot to such a little shit, particularly in the context of how his style completely devolves into a desperate hipster aesthetic over the rest of the season, but alas, it’s nice to see this young cynic embracing the holiday colors.

Change from “A Benihana Christmas” ranking: +8

Ryan's red and green stands out as he sits flanked by Oscar and Kelly in their respective shades of purple.

Ryan’s red and green stands out as he sits flanked by Oscar and Kelly in their respective shades of purple.

 

Dishonorable mention: Michael Scott (Steve Carell)

If this were Russia, yeah, sure, everybody would go to one Santa. And there would be a line around the block, and once you sat on her lap and she asks you what you wanted, you would probably say “freedom”… at which point the KGB would arrest you and send you to Siberia. It’s a good thing Russia doesn’t exist anymore.

Thanks to an ever-changing corporate structure, the departure of Holly Flax, and his usual annoyances (namely Toby), Michael Scott is at his most unhinged during this year’s Christmas party, and his frustration with the long-suffering Phyllis finally getting the chance to play Santa (and successfully so) sends him into a downward spiral of misery and despair. To protest Phyllis, Michael turns his own Santa Claus suit inside-out, draping himself in shiny off-white vestments and tying a decorative rope around his waist to declare himself to be Jesus Christ… albeit a version of Jesus with both the power of flight and the ability to heal “leopards” [sic].

Michael is still dressed as "Hurt, Petulant Jesus" when he makes the call to Dunder Mifflin CFO David Wallace and learns the fate of the company.

Michael is still dressed as “hurt, petulant Jesus” when he makes the call to Dunder Mifflin CFO David Wallace and learns the fate of the company.

After his humbling call with David Wallace, Michael abandons his holy garb and zips a navy cotton hoodie over his white undershirt.


Happy holidays, BAMF Style readers!

I hope all of you, particularly fans of The Office, enjoyed this exploration into another classic holiday episode.

THE OFFICE

If you haven’t seen The Office, do yourself a favor and check it out on Netflix (while you can) or find the complete series on DVD.

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