Was Mandy Moore's "One Sweater" In 'A Walk To Remember' That Bad?

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Was Mandy Moore's "One Sweater" In 'A Walk To Remember' That Bad?

When you decide to watch a movie adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel, you know what you’re going to get. They’re a sub-genre of film unto themselves: often melodramatic, maudlin, designed to manipulate your tear ducts into spilling at least one, solitary teardrop. Love happens. Hearts are broken. Someone usually dies. There’s one Nicholas Sparks movie adaptation that’s imprinted on my brain in the way that only the content you consume during your teen years can, even though it’s not exactly what I’d call a “good” movie. That movie is A Walk to Remember. The Shane West-Mandy Moore saccharine tearjerker came out in January 2002, and years later, I can remember nearly all the words to the song Moore’s character Jamie sings in the school play, the twists of the plot, and, with an alarming level of clarity, the barbed commentary surrounding the movie’s focal piece of costumery: Jamie’s “one sweater.”

The fact that Jamie appears to own one sweater is one of the most commented-upon and damning things about her in her peers’ eyes throughout A Walk to Remember. But as my memory, unbidden by my conscious mind, dredges up and replays their insults, I can’t help but question things: What's their damage? The verbal slights are burned into my brain, but my memory of the actual sweater itself is fuzzy. Tyler McCall, Editor-in-Chief of Fashionista, told me that despite being “obsessed with [A Walk to Remember] as a teen,” she could hardly recall The Sweater, either, and stressed that that was “…probably exactly its point! Dressing [Jamie] up in forgettable, modest, rather mousy pieces makes that transformation during the school play all the more jaw-dropping for Landon, a classic costume design cliché.”

So is The Sweater really that awful? Or are these teenagers just mean (and kind of uncreative)? To commemorate the 20th anniversary of A Walk to Remember, it’s time to take a second look at The Sweater. Hey, if French manicures and Abercrombie are in again, maybe Jamie Sullivan’s sweater is, too.

In A Walk to Remember, Jamie Sullivan (Mandy Moore) is something of a loner, the reverend’s daughter who spends her time stargazing, tutoring, composing music, and singing at church. Landon (Shane West) and his friends are small-town rebels without a cause. When Landon gets in trouble early on in the movie, he’s forced into various forms of punishment and his path ends up crossing with Jamie’s…a lot. Ups and downs follow, they fall in love, she dies. And The Sweater is there throughout it all.

The first time we see The Sweater—a gray/green fisherman’s knit cardigan with pearlescent buttons — is the first time we see Jamie at school (not in her choir robes at church). She’s keeping to herself, walking into the building, and Landon’s crew picks on her without provocation. “Nice sweater,” says Belinda (Lauren German), the words sharp and dipped in acid. “Thank you,” Jamie says sweetly. The scene is set: Jamie is either too naïve to pick up on sarcasm or she genuinely doesn’t care what people think of her (and her fashion sense, which is objectively a bit juvenile/Little House on the Prairie-esque), Belinda is kind of a bitch, and The Sweater is going to be a centerpiece of mockery for the rest of the movie.

And it is! Jamie wears it in seven more scenes, often during pivotal moments in her and Landon’s budding relationship, and it’s mocked at least three more times after that first instance — “You have exactly one sweater;” “Hey…where’s your sweater?;” and “If there is a higher power, then why can’t he get you a new sweater?”. (These mean teens are really one-note with their insults.) It even becomes an inside joke between Jamie and Landon when he gifts her a new sweater (a looser, lighter knit pale pink cardigan) when wooing her. After reassuring her dad that the gift is “just a sweater,” Jamie adds it into her outfit rotation, wearing it on her marathon first date with Landon and a few other occasions. (Notably, when she and Landon make their public debut as a couple at school, she wears her original sweater, not the new one, though she dons the pink one — presumably as a sartorial mea culpa — when she later apologizes to Landon for keeping her illness from him. Is it possible Jamie is more stylistically savvy than anyone’s given her credit for? She’s making statements with these sweater choices.)

There are two levels at play in the continued mockery of The Sweater: on one, Belinda and co. are judging Jamie’s style choices; they clearly think The Sweater is ugly and that Jamie doesn’t dress “cool” (cool like them, is the implication, and look, in 2022 the idea that any average high schooler in 2002 dressed cool is laughable). On another, they seem to be making fun of her for being poor — and thus only being able to afford one sweater — though Jamie and her father do not appear to be impoverished (I have no idea what kind of salary a small-town reverend pulls in, but their house is sizable). Employing some armchair psychology, the cool kids are likely bored and/or threatened by Jamie — be it because of her growing relationship with Landon, her utter faith and comfort with both her actual religious faith and herself, or what have you.

And The Sweater itself? It’s undeserving of such hate. It is a totally fine sweater (and honestly, hardly the frumpiest thing Jamie owns/wears)! I spoke with Linnea Leger, manager at Trilogy Consignment in Tarrytown, NY and vintage/thrifting enthusiast, for her professional opinion. “I wouldn’t call it ‘trendy’ but it’s certainly not out of style either,” she told me. “The color looks almost sage green in some lighting, which was one of the most popular colors this past year…if [it] were a modern piece, the biggest design change would be larger buttons. I really like the design of the knit, the fisherman style feels classic and timeless,” she added.

McCall had a similar take on The Sweater 20 years later, telling me, “It's definitely not a trendy sweater by any means — I don't suspect Gen Z will be reviving this one — but her peers should've been nicer to her about it!”

We can finally lay the matter to rest: The Sweater, much like its wearer Jamie Sullivan, is ultimately unworthy of the mockery it had to endure in 2002.

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