Casual Bernie Sanders goes viral as the inauguration’s unexpected meme

Sen. Bernie Sanders standing in a coat and face mask
Sen. Bernie Sanders arrives at Wednesday’s inauguration.
(Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

Sen. Bernie Sanders certainly felt the icy burn of the cold day at the Capitol as well as that of the pithy Twitter users who couldn’t get enough of his casual Inauguration Day look.

The Vermont senator became an unexpected meme during Wednesday’s festivities after being photographed appearing extremely uncomfortable and cold while in his seat ahead of the ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Vice President Kamala Harris, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and inauguration performers Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez catalyzed numerous articles and tweets about their symbolic wardrobe choices for the auspicious occasion.

But Sanders, a former presidential hopeful who became an important ally to President Joe Biden during the 2020 campaign, made a sartorial statement all his own. One of the IDGAF variety.

Bernie Sanders’ inauguration mittens hail from Vermont too. Second-grade teacher Jen Ellis made them, and they’ve been worn across the country.


The 79-year-old lawmaker donned his signature utilitarian Burton jacket amid a sea of bespoke trench coats. (Burton is a snowboarding company based in Burlington, Vt., and a longtime supporter of Sanders).

The progressive politician also prominently displayed patterned knit mittens and inexplicably carried a large manila envelope to the ceremony. It’s all business, all the time for this no-frills civil servant.

Ruby Cramer, a reporter for Buzzfeed, noted that Sanders previously wore the same mittens on the campaign trail during his presidential bid. The Green New Deal scribe was given the mittens two years ago by Vermont teacher Jen Ellis, who made them “from repurposed wool sweaters” and lined them with “fleece made from recycled plastic bottles.” Men’s magazine Esquire noted the jacket proved that “You Only Need One Good Coat.”

Like the other guests attending the inauguration during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sanders also wore a disposable blue surgical mask. But that’s neither here nor there.

Here are the best tweets reacting to Sanders’s look and stance, and some of the best guesses as to what was in that envelope: