In January 2021, Bernie Sanders, the popular US senator and far-left activist, was photographed seated during the inauguration of Joe Biden. Wearing distinctive chunky mittens (hand knitted by Vermont elementary school teacher Jen Ellis.) and bundled in a thick coat and wearing a surgical mask (it was during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic), the photo showed a relaxed Bernie casually sitting with cross legs and closed eyes. During a year many considered to be the worst year of their lives, his casual nature provided much needed comic relief.
The day after the photo was taken by Agence France-Presse photographer Brendan Smialowski, the memes began to appear showing Bernie Sanders placed comically in various popular or historic settings. Soon, merchandise featuring the meme appeared including T-shirts, dinner plates, wine glasses, stickers, and more. Sanders, who himself found humor in the whimsical photo, printed sweatshirts with the picture to raise money for charity. Sales of the shirt totaled more than $2 million dollars.
Here is the original photo that started the meme.
And here is a gallery of popular Bernie Sanders Mittens memes that appeared during the month-long craze.