The attendees of January 20’s presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C. received a lot of attention for their outfits, whether they were wearing symbolic colors or bold accessories.
And Bernie Sanders, a Vermont senator, was no exception.
Sanders was first seen taking his seat in the audience carrying a manila envelope in hand, as if he were going to run an errand after the event. He was bundled in a large coat to combat the cold January weather and sat back in his chair, cross-legged with his hands folded across his lap. The most striking part of his appearance, however, was the pair of patterned, hand-knitted mittens he wore.
It was later revealed that they were given to him by second-grade teacher Jen Ellis after he had lost the bid for Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. Ellis, a fellow Vermonter, added that they were made from repurposed wool with a fleece inner layer.
The original picture was taken by photographer Brendan Smialowski, who noticed the senator’s practical attire from a distance and decided to focus on it. Sanders’s look went viral overnight, inspiring a meme and even mittens-themed merchandise. He has been pictured in the Venus di Milo, seated with union workers and even sorted into a house at Hogwarts. This is the second time Bernie has been the star of a major meme, the first being when he was “once again asking for your financial support” for donations towards his presidential campaign.
A few weeks after the inauguration, “Chairman Sanders” tee shirts, stickers and sweatshirts were added to Bernie’s campaign website as homage to his now-famous pose. The $1.8 million raised from the website alone by avid fans was donated to Vermont-based charities.
Nick Sawhney, a student at NYU, launched a website titled “Put Bernie Anywhere!” on January 20. On the site, a user could type in a location, and a picture of Sanders would appear on an image of that place via Google Maps. Unfortunately, due to application programming interface costs, the site has been archived after creating a total of close to 10 million custom memes.