Bernie Sanders and his inauguration mittens

Di Anna Galli


We have seen him everywhere: travelling on a train, waiting on our sofas and sitting on the chairlift or along a street. The photo of Bernie Sanders, the United States Senator from Vermont, sitting alone in his beige parka, legs and arms crossed, hugging a pair of large mittens bearing a white and brown pattern literally went viral, triggered endless social media memes and became the best meme of 2021.

Despite his recent fame, one question persisted: Where did he get those cozy mittens? The answer: Jen Ellis, a second grade teacher (as Bernie) from Vermont, made these mittens of wool from old sweaters and lining from recycled materials. Though she never met him, she said that  “when he lost the bid for the Democratic nominations in 2016, I was really heartbroken for him because I felt like he probably wouldn’t run again. I thought, ‘I’d like to make him a pair of mittens.’ And I did”. “I totally remember the night I did it. I was thinking to myself, ‘Is this crazy?”. So she sent them to the senator and thought that was the end of it. But the recent events proved her wrong. 

Moreover Sanders’s team, to take advantage of his fame, decided to create t-shirts and sweatshirts merchandise with his meme and the writing “President Sanders“ on. As they expected, the merchandise soon took off, and the proceeds from sales were donated to Vermont charities that deal with the distribution of meals in poor neighborhoods and services for people who live in difficult situations.

At the end, the moral of this story can be well explained by Ellis’s words: “When you are a maker of things, when you create things — art or clothes or whatever you make — you never know where they’re going to go. And the fact that these mittens were made with the sewing machine my mother gave me when I was 12 years old and with wool that somebody else had thrown away, and they made it all the way to one of the most historic inaugurations of my lifetime… ” her voice was trailing off. “It just delights me.”