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Friday Jan 22 2021
By
AFP
,
Web Desk

Bundled-up Bernie: The story of the mittens that sparked an inauguration meme storm

By
AFP
,
Web Desk

The mittens that Bernie Sanders wore to the US presidential inauguration were gifted by a teacher in Vermont who upcycles used wool clothes into mittens as a side business.

WASHINGTON: Standing out in a crowd of glamorously dressed guests, Bernie Sanders showed up for the US presidential inauguration on Wednesday in a heavy winter jacket and brown and white patterned mittens.

The mittens have since become the subject of a meme storm on social media as well as garnered curiosity over where the senator obtained them. Fashion magazine Vogue went so far as to describe his style as "anti-fashion".

Sanders's prominent mittens were made from repurposed wool sweaters and fleece made from recycled plastic bottles by Jen Ellis of Essex Junction, a teacher in Vermont.

Here's how it all began: Ellis' daughter, Helen, went to a child care centre owned by a relative of Sanders'.

This provided the teacher an "in" to give the former presidential candidate a pair of the mittens, more than two years ago.

"I think people like a heartwarming story — especially now," Ellis said of why the mittens captured so many people's attention on social media.

Ellis says she has never met the senator. She is a full-time elementary school teacher in Vermont's Essex-Westford School District. She upcycles used wool clothes into mittens as a side business, to sell at craft fairs or to give as gifts.

It seems Sanders certainly fancies them. "He previously wore the mittens at stops on the campaign trail when he was running for president in 2020, and in interviews with Vermont journalists," reports NECN.

"You know, in Vermont... we know something about the cold. We're not so concerned about good fashion, we want to keep warm. And that's what I did today," Sanders said with a snicker on CBS News after the inauguration.

His wife Jane O'Meara Sanders also praised the look, tweeting: "Vermont jacket, Vermont gloves, Vermont common sense!"

Memes galore

An AFP photo of the veteran leftist spawning the first viral meme of the Biden era.

The senator from the northeastern state of Vermont, beloved by supporters for his earnest and seemingly grumpy style, was seated alone at the socially distanced event Wednesday where Joe Biden took oath as president.

Social media users quickly pounced on AFP photographer Brendan Smialowski's shot of a bundled-up Sanders sitting cross-legged, superimposing it on a wide variety of images.

Former presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) sits in the bleachers on Capitol Hill before Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th US President on January 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. — AFP/Brendan Smialowski

One placed Sanders on a bench next to Tom Hanks in "Forrest Gump", another put him in detention with the teenagers from "The Breakfast Club", and he also made it into numerous "Star Wars" scenes.

Some photoshopped him on to the covers of albums by music stars such as Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar and Oasis.

Sanders has been in the political limelight for years — most recently, he aimed for the White House in the 2020 Democratic primaries, which he lost to the eventual winner Biden.

But some Twitter users decided to whisk him to other moments in history.

One meme showed him, mittens and all, in a black-and-white photo from the WWII Yalta Conference in 1945, seated next to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, US President Franklin Roosevelt and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

Another placed him at the table with Jesus Christ and his apostles in Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper".

He even made it to the Moon: one meme showed him seated on the surface of the moon, wearing an astronaut's helmet, next to an American flag.

Sanders, who had arrived at the Capitol carrying a large brown envelope, was also compared to a grandfather stopping in at the inauguration on the way to the post office, or perhaps he was off to pick up a doctor's prescription.

Twitter user @BoxrecGrey quipped: "Bernie looks fully prepared to leave this event early to mail his taxes and cash a cashier's check."