Hand Warming Meme Goes Viral: Bernie Sanders' Recycled Mittens Promotes Sustainable Fashion

It’s a meme that has taken the internet by storm: U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sitting legs-crossed and bundled up, donning a mask, coat, and a pair of big, cozy mittens. 

Since Inauguration Day it's been shared quickly, with people Photoshopping him into paintings, photos, movies, and more. PM Justin Trudeau even joined in on the fun, sharing an image of himself during a press conference at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa along with a photoshopped Sanders.

“It was one thing when my son crashed my press conference a month or so ago, but this... Now is not the time to travel. Stay home - and by that, I mean your own home.” 

Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 23, 2021

The team here at Covergalls couldn’t help but add our own version too: 

The amusing photo of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders all bundled up is the latest example of his “grumpy chic” aesthetic. Much like the Grumpy Cat meme, this image has captured the heart of the internet as it perfectly encapsulates the mood of the times. 

Even better is Sanders’ genuine amusement to the viral image. 

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders reacts to his inauguration photo with amusement on Late Night with Seth Meyers.

Internet is Smitten by Mittens 

The mittens that Bernie Sanders is wearing in the photo are originally created by Jen Ellis, a second-grade teacher living in Essex Junction, Vermont. 

Since the meme went viral last week Ellis has been inundated with interview requests and shoppers. Ellis told outlets such as Slate and CBC’s As It Happens that her Gmail account crashed from the flood people trying to get their own pair of mittens. 

According to her interview on As It Happens, five years ago Ellis was making mittens for her daughter's preschool teachers, who happen to be at the same school where Sanders' daughter-in-law, Liza Driscoll, was director.

When Sanders lost the nomination to become the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, as a way to help cheer him on, Ellis decided to send Sanders a pair of mittens.

The eye-catching mitts are made from recycled wool sweaters and lined with fleece made from recycled plastic bottles. Each pair takes about an hour to make. 

The popularity has been so overwhelming that Ellis has now had to announce that she cannot take any more orders

Plenty of eager entrepreneurs have cropped up on Etsy and Instagram, sharing their own patterns and versions of the cozy knit mittens. According to a Bloomberg report, Burton Snowboards, the Vermont outerwear company that made the coat the senator wore at Joe Biden’s inauguration, has also been flooded with new visitors. 

Bernie Sanders’ team was not going to be outdone by the internet either. Last Thursday, Sanders' official site even advertised preorders for a crewneck sweatshirt displaying the image of a grumpy Sanders in the chair.

It sold out right away.

This is not the first time that the U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders became a viral sensation for his fashion! The snug coat he is wearing in the viral photo was actually in another viral sensation named as one of the most impactful memes of 2020 by Time Magazine

Calling for Sustainable Fashion for 2020 - that includes masks!

One reason Bernie Sanders’ viral upcycled mittens are so great is the fashion statement it comes with them: sustainability. 

Repurposed fashion is becoming all the rage these days, as more and more people pay attention to the impact their purchases have on the environment. Vogue even wrote about the topic last year, predicting that the future of fashion is circular and that the 2020s will be all about making new clothes out of old ones.

A year into the COVID-19 pandemic and we’ve seen an unfortunate, and unintended, waste created from a necessary new fashion choice: face masks. 

It’s not uncommon to see discarded or lost disposal surgical masks on the street these days, no matter where you are in the world. Greenpeace Taiwan estimates that from early February to mid May, Taiwan produced and used roughly 1.3 billion surgical masks. Single-use face mask production in China soared to 116 million per day in February, about 12 times the usual quantity. In the UK concerns have risen on how single-use surgical masks cause enormous plastic waste and that environmentally friendly alternatives must be promoted.

The World Health Organization has requested a 40 percent escalation of disposable PPE production. 

Make no mistake - personal protective equipment (PPE) has been essential during the pandemic. There’s also no doubt that high PPE demand has driven increased plastic pollution. 

According to a concerning Science magazine article that came out in September 2020, if the global population keeps to a standard of one disposable face mask per day after lockdowns end, the pandemic could result in a monthly global consumption and waste of 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves.

As the meme of Bernie Sanders and his mittens continues to go viral for the next couple days, it gives us a unique opportunity to discuss and share how our fashion choices can also be made sustainable... 

And face masks are definitely a part of our fashion these days!

We’ve “given” our own reusable face masks to Bernie. Do you like the look? You can check them, and our other masks, out at our store: https://covergalls.com/collections/masks 

Our personal decisions have an impact on our planet. Bernie Sanders decided to bundle up with mittens, and he became an internet sensation. Sometimes it’s the small things that snowball. Similarly, throwing away a disposable face mask, like plastic bags or other waste, can add up to a big problem. 

Choosing to wear a mask doesn’t mean you have to choose between safety and sustainability. Masks are very important to our health and safety, so why not find a good-quality, reusable, sustainable mask? 

As you scour the internet for your own version of an upcycled pair of mittens, please make sure to add a reusable mask to your quest.