Terry Poe, owner of Frosty’s Christmas Trees in East Hollywood, has been selling Christmas trees for 17 years, and has relatives who have been in the industry since the 1970s. He’s seen holiday trends ebb and flow for decades, and this year’s craze is colored Christmas trees.
Called “flocking,” adding color to a tree starts with a mixture of adhesive and dyed cotton fibers, which are sprayed onto the tree to give it a colorful and vibrant look.
According to Poe, flocking started with simple white coats, meant to mimic snow. But the past few years have seen an explosion of colors, ranging from hot pink to black with glitter. Frosty’s flocking expert, known even by other employees only as “Tree,” said Dodgers blue is also popular. Flocking used to be done with home kits, but now it’s experienced flockers like Tree who hold the reins.
According to Tom Leonard, owner of Peak Seasons tree lot supplier, flocking is most popular in sunny states that don’t receive much natural snow. Places like Florida and California are friendly to flocking, and it’s those states where offbeat colors are picking up in popularity. Trees can be anywhere from $25 to $100, with the national average being about $75, according to Time. Depending on how heavy the flocking is, it can add anywhere between $5 to $7 dollars per foot.
Flocking is all about personality, Poe said. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
“I’ve learned that there isn’t an ugly tree, because there’s a tree for everybody,” Poe said. “So the tree that may be ugly for you, it may be perfect for someone else.”
Although Los Angeles resident Martin Lopez understands the appeal of a personalized tree, he prefers a more natural look to his tannenbaum. The flock he purchased at Frosty’s was light, and meant to mimic snow.
“Usually, we try to go with something natural, something green and vibrant,” Lopez said. Part of that love for tradition comes from his heritage. Having come from an agricultural family, Lopez sees Christmastime as an opportunity to look to the past, when synthetic materials didn’t rule the world and people worked honest jobs among nature.
Flocking might seem unnatural, but with the right color, a tree can look like the way it did back on the farm, covered in real snow. And best of all, flocking contains no harmful synthetic chemicals. Flock is made of natural cotton fibers, some dye and a bit of glue.
Lopez’ point of view isn’t as common as it used to be. According to Treetopia, two-thirds of American households will display an artificial tree this year, and only one in five will display a real one. Those with artificial trees will keep them for about 10 years, according to the same survey, and households with artificial trees are also likely to have more than one.
It seems like those statistics spell doom for natural trees, but Poe isn’t worried. Whether they’re bare naked, flocked with a simple snowy coat, or dyed every color of the rainbow, Christmas trees will remain popular.
“There’s millions and millions of people that buy trees every year,” the longtime fir seller said. “Most people like the natural smell, they like watering it. They even like the mess real trees make. It’s like a tradition for many people.”