Christmas is awesome. First of all, you get to spend time with people you love. Secondly, you can get drunk and no one can say anything. Third, you give presents. What’s better than giving presents? And fourth, getting presents. So, four things. Not bad for one day. It’s really the greatest day of all time.
With some offices reinstating the traditional holiday parties this year, I also want to return to my own December tradition of reviewing how the off-the-peg office drones of Dunder Mifflin Scranton dress for their annual Christmas extravaganza.
The Office first approached the festive season with the simply titled “Christmas Party”, midway through the series’ masterful second season. This has always been one of my favorite episodes of The Office, and “Christmas Party” was actually the first-ever iTunes Store purchase I had made after Christmas 2005 found a video iPod in my stocking… appropriately enough, as fans of the episode would realize.
At this point, The Office was still a more restrained satire of American workplaces—rather than the zanier character-driven comedy it would become—and the first Christmas party reflects that mundanity, with cheap decorations, cheap vodka, and cheap grab bag gifts, and seemingly none of the staff happy to be part of this forced corporate fun, save for the oblivious manager Michael Scott (Steve Carell).
Series: The Office
Episode: “Christmas Party” (Episode 2.10)
Air Date: December 6, 2005
Director: Charles McDougall
Creator: Greg Daniels
Costume Designer: Carey Bennett
While many classic episodes would follow—including the two-part “A Benihana Christmas” the following season—this was the OG Christmas episode of The Office, filled with all the great cringe-worthy moments like Michael’s impulsive decision to switch Secret Santa to Yankee Swap, milestones in the Jim and Pam romance (that teapot note!), drunken hijinks like Xeroxed butts and lampshade hats, and moments for side characters to shine, from Kevin’s foot-bath to Meredith’s flashing incident.
“Christmas Party” also offered our first look at how the employees would switch up their work-wear for a corporate holiday party, with all the tacky ties, ugly sweaters, and half-hearted Santa hats that add some festive color against the office’s Jims and Ryans who choose not to sartorially partake. (Later seasons would increasingly show the men of Dunder Mifflin embracing the holiday spirit through their clothing, clad in reds and greens, with nary a man—even Jim!—failing to knot on neckwear painted with snowy scenes.)
Last month, I was thrilled when the great blogcast The Art of Costume welcomed The Office costume designer Carey Bennett for a festive installment to discuss both “Christmas Party” and “A Benihana Christmas”. Among the many insights shared, Bennett explained that she was intentional with each male character’s “tie story”, which makes it all the more interesting [to me, anyway] that Michael, Jim, and Creed would each repeat their ties the following year in “A Benihana Christmas”.
As usual, let’s start at the bottom and work our way toward the top of the tree as I offer my no-one-asked-for-these ratings on how the men of Dunder Mifflin Scranton adapted their office attire for the staff Christmas party…
10. Todd Packer (David Koechner)
Merry Christmas, asswipe!
Points for, uh, Christmas spirit… but the obnoxious Pacman’s evidently had a few too many spirits already by the time he arrives at the Dunder Mifflin holiday party, dressed conventionally but sloppily in a navy suit, unbuttoned white shirt, and exactly the type of “festive” tie you’d expect of a man whose license plate advertises the size of his penis. A field of snowflakes and colorful ornaments are scattered down the black tie, which would actually make it one of the more tasteful holiday ties of The Office… until we approach the blade, painted with a topless blonde pinup in a red Santa hat with matching skirt, boots, and nothing else. Costume designer Carey Bennett explained on The Art of Costume that this was one of the “wealth of bad ties” she had purchased for the characters to wear from the now-defunct California-based department store Mervyn’s.
On anyone else, the tie might have some ironic value, but you know Todd Packer’s the kind of guy who probably finds it both simultaneously classy and sexy… made all the worse by the woman’s likeness appearing just inches above his WLHUNG package.
9. Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson)
“A real man makes his own luck.” Billy Zane. Titanic.
Saved from last place by Todd Packer’s late arrival, the arguably worst dresser among the men of Dunder Mifflin Scranton doesn’t do himself any favors the first time we see him at a Christmas party. As usual, he’s dressed in the palette of his olive-to-ochre spectrum, which was “100% J.C. Penney,” according to Carey Bennett.
Perhaps unwilling to suffer the wrath of Belsnickel, Dwight makes what he may consider a more admirable than impish attempt to infuse holiday color into his wardrobe, wearing one of his usual green gradient-shaded ties with an olive suit, though any sense of fashionability is thrown against the wall with Angela’s ornaments once he removes the suit jacket, revealing the avalanche of poor style decisions: his baggy creamy yellow shirt has his usual short sleeves, and the belt around the top of his pleated trousers is loaded with his usual beeper and cell phone. The black digital calculator watch strapped to his left wrist is one gadget too many, though it’s all part of Dwight’s regular kit.
Where Dwight diverges from his usual wardrobe is the addition of a cheap green felt elf hat with the ears to match. Though we see you trying, Dwight… the attempt is still impish at best.
8. Ryan Howard (B.J. Novak)
Angela drafted me into the party planning committee. Her memo said that we need to prepare for every possible disaster. Which, to me, seems… excessive.
Ryan doesn’t care… and it shows. You could argue that his all-blue look of a navy suit, French blue shirt, and tonal tie is meant to be a reflection of a wintry palette, but it’s more likely that he’s just actively avoiding holiday colors. He’s saved from a lower ranking by the fact that there’s nothing visually offensive about his look, and—for an unpaid temp at a northeastern Pennsylvania paper company in the mid-2000s—his clothes are tasteful and fit relatively well.
It may be a blue Christmas for Ryan now, but just give it a few years… by the time of the seventh season’s “Secret Santa”, he takes the BAMF Style top prize in his red shirt and green sweater vest!
7. Jim Halpert (John Krasinski)
He obviously forgot to get me something, and then he went in his closet and dug out this little number… and then threw it in a bag.
Jim doesn’t seem too bothered by Creed’s lack of effort in his Secret Santa gift, and why should he? Though one of Dunder Mifflin Scranton’s top salesmen, Jim doesn’t give much effort to… anything at all. Even for the season’s Halloween party, his “three-hole punch Jim” costume was likely constructed in less than two minutes.
We see just about as much effort for the Christmas party as he wears his daily rig of a well-washed oxford shirt with a button-down collar, pleated slacks, and a loosened tie… though at least he thinks to cycle in the one that’s predominantly burgundy for some arguable shades of holiday red, subtly striped against low-contrasting flecked stripes in black and tan. (He would wear the same tie again in “A Benihana Christmas” but with somewhat more success, given the full suit and dressier shirt.)
Does it help or hurt Jim’s case when he puts on the old shirt that Creed had grabbed that morning before work?
6. Kevin Malone (Brian Baumgartner)
I got myself as secret Santa. I was supposed to tell somebody, but I didn’t.
I wrestled with where in the bottom half of the list to rank poor Kevin, but ultimately I felt like his attempt paid off. Perhaps only a mid-sized paper company sales office in Scranton, Pennsylvania, could see such sartorial recognition for a guy like Kevin Malone, who—especially at this point in the series—doesn’t quite seem to grasp how to dress to flatter his more corpulent figure… not to mention the clashing patterns.
Kevin’s base outfit of an olive tic-checked sports coat, multi-striped shirt, and blue trousers might work on some level, but the impression I got was that the somewhat absent-minded accountant was leaving the house in a different tie before he was spotted by Stacy, who reminded him of his holiday party and swapped in a tie painted in a repeated scene of rows of snowmen standing around a Christmas tree… likely something she’d gifted to Kevin under the tree the previous year. (He would wear another snowman-motif tie the following year in “A Benihana Christmas”, establishing a pattern where Kevin evidently has a small accrued collection of seasonal neckwear!)
At least there’s some fortuitous coordination at work, from the wintry blues of the shirt striping, trouser color, and “sky” on the tie to the earthy shades of the jacket, alternating tie stripes, and the snowmen’s hats and tree on the tie.
5. Creed Bratton
(following Jim’s theory about the lack of effort behind his Secret Santa gift) Yep. That’s exactly what happened.
Creed had only begun to emerge from the background by the middle of The Office‘s second season, showing increasingly bizarre traits such as his unapologetic regifting of an old shirt for the branch’s Secret Santa exchange. For all his eccentricities, it wasn’t until later that Creed would incorporate his unorthodoxy into his appearance, such as the ninth-season episode where he randomly wears sweatpants and Crocs with his sport jacket and tie.
He takes a characteristically subdued approach to dressing for the party, wearing a uniquely striped shirt consisting of varying gray gradient stripes against a white ground that provides a neutral background for the “holiday red” in his burgundy tie with a textured gray micro-grid that contributes to a gradient effect there as well. Creed would wear this tie again in “A Benihana Christmas”, in which I deemed him to be Dunder Mifflin’s best-dressed, though he spends the majority of this episode sans jacket, highlighting the shirt’s less-than-flattering off-the-peg fit that keeps him restrained to the middle of the rankings.
4. Oscar Martinez (Oscar Nunez)
I got Creed. And to tell you the truth, I don’t know anything about Creed. I know his name’s Creed, I know he works right over there, I think he’s Irish, and I… I got him this shamrock keychain.
Oscar typically stands out as one of Dunder Mifflin’s better dressers. While I wouldn’t normally consider the wearer of such an animated tie to be considerably stylish, I appreciate the addition of his tweed sports coat as the group prepares to venture out to a post-party happy hour, with the brown wool of his jacket almost coordinating with the hide of that cheerful reindeer grinning from his tie blade. (Even if it is a tacky tie, it’s at least more office-appropriate than Packer’s horny neckwear.)
Maybe I’ve relaxed my attitude toward tacky holiday ties in my old age, but there’s still no reason for the tail to be longer than the blade. Plus, the fact that Oscar wouldn’t even be able to hide the tie’s flamboyance when buttoning his tasteful tweed jacket restrains his look to fourth position. A more restrained tie that’s been more proportionally tied would have likely secured him the top spot, but alas…
3. Michael Scott (Steve Carell)
Unbelievable. I do the nicest thing that anyone’s ever done for these people and they freak out. Well… happy birthday Jesus, sorry your party’s so lame.
As I mentioned, I’m finding more forgiveness for the yuletide tradition of tacky ties, and no one seems to appreciate them more than Michael Scott. The silk tie depicts a snowy scene at the North Pole, with a red-suited St. Nick greeting us with a Christmas carol from the blade. Behind him, four snowmen in red and green scarves are perched on a bridge ahead of a tall, decorated Christmas tree and a brown chalet—likely Santa’s famous workshop—silhouetted against a blue night sky. (I found a reversed version of the tie on Amazon, though it appears to be frequently out of stock.)
For its inaugural episode, Michael sports the tie with a decently cut business suit and a pale shirt that doesn’t threaten to clash with the busy scene painted on his tie. He completes the look with a red Santa hat, signaling his leadership of the office… and which he offers up to Daryl after stubbornly refusing to do earlier in the day. For its first run, Michael wears the tie well, but his insistence on wearing it for the two subsequent Dunder Mifflin Christmas parties suggests a lack of originality that he overwhelmingly corrects by the time he hosts a “Classy Christmas” during the seventh season.
2. Stanley Hudson (Leslie David Baker)
I know how to plug something in.
Stanley presents a tasteful alternative to the ostentatious holiday-themed ties of his colleagues, just livening up his usual business look with a bright red polka-dotted tie that adds a festive flair. The more subdued tie allows Stanley to wear a more patterned shirt, as seen by the subtly dobby-striped shirt with its spread collar.
The overall philosophy of Stanley’s suit in “Christmas Party” suggests a smart approach for corporate holiday celebrations, though the fit—particularly of that three-button jacket—may not be Stanley’s most flattering look.
1. Toby Flenderson (Paul Lieberstein)
We’re really not supposed to serve alcohol…
Toby scores an early win with his smart dark brown suit that, in the world of Dunder Mifflin Scranton, earns the top spot for avoid the extremes of corporate banality or obnoxious festivity. His clothes fit relatively well, considering that he probably buys exclusively off the peg, like the rest of his office-mates.
It may not be the most spirited outfit, but the subtle holiday shades in his pale-green shirt and burgundy patterned tie neatly correspond to maintaining a sense of professionalism when dressing for an office Christmas party. Future years would find Toby incorporating more Christmas-themed neckwear into his yuletide wardrobe, evolving through nutcracker ties and penguin ties before swapping it all out for the warmth of a snowflake sweater in the seventh season’s “Classy Christmas”.
Happy holidays, BAMF Style readers!
I hope all of you, particularly fans of The Office, enjoyed this exploration into one of my favorite holiday episodes… and I hope you all know I care about you at least a homemade oven mitt’s worth.