Bernie Sanders’ Vermont-made inaugural mittens heat up the internet

Screenshots of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ cold weather wardrobe from the inauguration of President Joe Biden on Wednesday quickly inspired a series of Internet memes.

Kamala Harris made history as the nation’s first female, Black and Asian-American vice president on Inauguration Day in a politically unifying purple coat by rising-star designer Christopher John Rogers.

So why was Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders making all the fashion headlines?

“Ready for the brisk temperature in the low 40s, he opted for a light brown jacket from the Vermont-based company Burton, with his black suit jacket poking out from under the coat,” Vogue wrote on its website. “But the best part of the look was Sanders’s mittens.”

The “fashion bible” noted the gloves’ brown, blue and cream palette with “a vague nod to a Fair Isle pattern.” But the publication was more impressed that their creator, Essex Junction teacher Jen Ellis, handcrafted them especially for the former presidential candidate from repurposed wool sweaters and fleece made from recycled plastic bottles.

“What started out as a simple act of kindness more than 2 years ago has grown into something beyond my imagination!” Ellis went on to post on Twitter.

Although the teacher has yet to respond to press calls, dozens of global media outlets have been happy to comment.

The men’s magazine GQ, for example, noted while President Joe Biden faced the strongest inaugural winds in nearly 40 years in a smart Ralph Lauren suit and topcoat, Sanders “seemed far better equipped.”

“Like the dyed-in-the-wool Vermonter he is, Sanders bucked the day’s formal dress code in favor of a heavy, hardy parka and truly spectacular pair of big woolly mittens,” GQ wrote on its website. “Not only were they a righteous swerve for a history-making moment, but the story behind the mitts themselves couldn’t possibly be more Bernie-ish.”

Vanity Fair featured Sanders in the same “must-see looks” column as Lady Gaga (in a Schiaparelli gown) and Jennifer Lopez (in suffragette-white Chanel), while the Wall Street Journal acknowledged the corporate critic’s attire for “unexpectedly stealing the inauguration show.

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BuzzFeed News, for its part, focused on the manila envelope Sanders carried: “A source,” it revealed, said “Sanders was holding the original envelope his inauguration tickets came in.”

Interest reached internationally, with the BBC touting “Bernie Sanders’ mittens and other inauguration moments you may have missed” while internet memes skyrocketed it all into the social media stratosphere.

“In all the inauguration fashion news,” The New York Times chief fashion critic Vanessa Friedman tweeted, “let us not overlook Senator Bernie Sanders’ mittens.”

Sanders himself addressed the issue in a nationally televised interview.

“In Vermont, we know something about the cold,” he told CBS anchor Gayle King, “and we’re not so concerned about good fashion. We want to keep warm.”

“Mission accomplished,” King replied with a laugh.

That didn’t stop Vogue from praising Sanders as a “serial outfit repeater” following in the footsteps of Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton. The magazine noted he wore the same mittens to the Women’s March in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, last January.

“The look feels Bernie to the core, no fuss and no flash, just down to the basics,” Vogue concluded. “And in Sanders’s case, nothing looks as good on him as his signature anti-fashion style.”

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Kevin O'Connor

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