It wasn't always this way. Over the years the man also known as Kris Kringle, Saint Nick and Father Christmas has had nearly as many wardrobe changes as aliases, turning up wearing long, green, fur-lined robes in one incarnation, a bright red-and-white outfit topped with a bishop's miter in another. But for at least the last half-century, Claus' clothes have been frozen in a kind of garish caricature of a costume: a bulky, red (presumably wool) suit with wide, woolly white cuffs; a thick, black patent leather belt and Mayflower-era belt buckle holding back a generous belly (you know, the one that shakes "like a bowl full of jelly"); sooty black boots on his feet and a red stocking cap upon his head.
PHOTOS: Santa Claus gets a makeover
It's understandable wardrobe inertia. After a hectic 364 days of the year filled with elf management, reindeer husbandry and staying on Mrs. Claus' nice list, the first time the Jolly One even thinks about that flight suit is probably an hour or two before it's boots off the ground, sleigh bells ringing. If there's an A-list celebrity out there more deserving of a style makeover, we can't think of one.
In the spirit of holiday giving, we asked some of our favorite tastemakers from 2011 — Hollywood stylists, fashion plates, boutique owners and bon vivants — to share how they might help Santa kick things up a notch in the wardrobe department.
Darren Gold, owner, Alpha: Gear for Gents: "Santa is so difficult, because you don't want to mess with the spirit of the original jolly guy. But there is definitely a way to modernize him while keeping him Santa. This year there is an obvious choice, because Dolce & Gabbana did some amazing red and burgundy velvet suits that are very Santa — their entire fall/winter collection actually screams Santa.
"I would butch it up with some real military boots or some bulky Rick Owens sneakers, a hat and fingerless gloves from the Elder Statesman — I wish I could do him in an entire Elder Statesman outfit, but that might push it a little too far — a handmade silk velvet bow tie from L.A.-based Boutaugh, a big canvas duffel from Copy Collection and top it all off with an over-sized scarf from Nice Collective to wear on the sleigh when the wind is blowing and he needs some extra warmth."
Rachel Zoe, celebrity stylist, fashion designer and reality TV star: "I think [a] red velvet suit, white shirt with cuff links, black ankle boots, white faux fur coat with black toggle closures and [a] slouchy beanie in white as well. Also, a large shoulder duffel for his toys."
Dayna Pink, costume designer, "Crazy, Stupid, Love": "Santa is more up to date than you may think. Though he is definitely overweight (I suggest a Blueprint Cleanse). I am all for keeping the full beard. We saw them on the runway for spring on models at Martin Margiela, Adam Kimmel and Billy Reid, and I'm not sure how long this trend will last, but for now I think Santa's facial hair is safe.
"As far as the suit, Lanvin did a great maroon velvet blazer this season that could replace the jacket. And a reusable/recyclable sack for the toys is probably a good idea. If we are talking about the Santa hat, it's pretty iconic, and since it never really was in style, it will never go out."
Christos Garkinos, co-owner Decades consignment boutique: "Let's mix up the red suit — tangerine is the new red for 2012. And '90s grunge is back in, so how about a new pair of Doc Martens? And I worry for Santa's health, [so] I'd get him a series of TRX classes at Gold's Gym to help improve his core and balance; lifting heavy packages on roofs demands it. Can you imagine if we got Tom Ford to make him a bespoke suit? [That would be a] sartorial Santa indeed. And while we're at it, wouldn't Mrs. Claus look good in an Oscar de la Renta dress?
"But Santa's beard is really in at the moment, so I wouldn't change that at all."
George Kotsiopolous, celebrity stylist and co-host of "Fashion Police" on E!: "Changing Santa's iconic look is akin to modifying Marilyn [Monroe's] infamous white halter dress, so I say: 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.'
"I would, however, suggest Mr. Claus invest in one of those Spanx for Men compression T-shirts for a more slimming look."
Simon Spurr, menswear designer: "The innovation of the iconic suit is in the new mind-set of the consumer. The current generation of modern men have come to understand that a way to distinguish yourself from the crowd is to wear a perfectly fitted suit. Even Santa wears a snug suit."
Cameron Silver, founder and co-owner Decades consignment boutique: "Santa Claus needs to eat less carbs and do some crunches so he fits into a slim silhouette suit for Christmas 2012. I like the idea of a fitted Simon Spurr jolly red suit with leather trim, and the pants tucked sloppily into a pair of All Saints boots.
"I have issues with the reindeer abuse, so perhaps a fuel-efficient Gucci Fiat or Prius might be an alternative mode of transportation. As for his carryall, Santa should schlep a Hermès Haut à Courroies or a Bottega Veneta Cabat.
"Finally, the silver fox hair [color] is working for me but the grizzly bear beard needs a serious trim, so rather than leaving Santa some cookies for when he comes down the chimney, I suggest a gift certificate to the Art of Shaving for some 'manscaping.'"
Martijn Linden, design director at Patagonia: "If the products Santa's currently using are working for him, we say he should certainly keep on rocking them. But if he's looking for alternatives with the latest technology, we've got a couple of things he might like.