He was not invested but he managed to capture the light, Wednesday, January 20, in Washington. On that day, while taking the oath on the enormous Douai bible, Joe Biden officially became the 46th President of the United States, Bernie Sanders, one of his rivals in the Democratic primary, caused a sensation .
In the stands, with his down jacket, his arms crossed, his hand-knitted mittens and his jaded air, the senator from Vermont immediately became a meme, an element taken up, declined, diverted and parodied on the internet.
The choice of comfort rather than style
The investiture ceremony is often synonymous with a competition of elegance. The participants put on their 31 and sometimes take the opportunity to pass messages. Joe Biden’s nomination was no exception to the rule since Democrats Kamala Harris, Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton had chosen to adorn themselves in purple to make a nod to the American two-party system – the mixture of the red of the Republicans and the blue of the Democrats – and the suffragette movement.
Bernie Sanders was the opposite in style to Douglas Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, with well-cut coats and leather gloves. The senator from Vermont arrived in a down jacket and eco-friendly knitted mittens. For a very simple reason: it was cold in the American capital, barely 6 ° C with a light wind. A good reason to bundle up well, which the singer did not fail to point out Dionne Warwick, performer of What The World Needs Now in 1966. “It looks hot”, she tweeted.
Bernie Sanders explained about this dress choice on CBS News. “You know, in Vermont we dress warm, he smiled. We know the cold, and we don’t really bother with fashion. ”
His wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, backed him up by tweeting: “Down jacket from Vermont, mittens from Vermont, common sense from Vermont”. Indeed, this jacket and these mittens were manufactured in the State of Vermont. The parka comes from snowboard brand Burton, headquartered in Vermont. Jane O’Meara’s son Sanders, Dave Driscoll, worked there and bought it for him for Christmas.
The mittens were made by one of her constituents. They’re made from wool from old sweaters and stuffed with fleece made from recycled plastic bottles, according to the fashion magazine. Vogue (in English), and testify, writes the magazine, of his deliberately anti-fashion style.
A photo that has become iconic and transformed into a meme
Bernie Sanders prostrate, it did not take more for the internet to ignite. The photo taken by AFP photographer Brendan Smialowski, showing him sitting, legs and arms crossed, with his hand-knitted mittens in full view, was immediately picked up by netizens, who used it at all times. sauces by superimposing it on other known clichés. On iconic American rap album covers for example.
We can see the senator, 79 years old, as well on the majestic Iron Throne of the hit series Game Of Thrones that sat on a bench next to Tom Hanks in the movie Forrest Gump, in scenes of Star wars or in the famous photo of the 1930s, sitting on a joist, overlooking the void, with the workers of a skyscraper under construction during their lunch break. He also appears alongside Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill in Yalta in 1945, among the apostles in The Lord’s Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, or on the Moon, with an astronaut helmet.
Diversions in all situations, but which have ended up boring Internet users. And still there, there was a tiny gap, in which MarkBrooksArt rushed by emphasizing the overdose of this meme while feeding it.
Photographer, Brendan Smialowski, interviewed by Rolling Stone (in English), recognizes that “l‘image itself is not so beautiful.
“It’s not a large composition. I’m not going to put this in a portfolio.”
Brendan Smialowski, AFP photographer
to “Rolling Stone”
He was also overwhelmed by the scope of his shot, but according to him, “the senator has an image and is a very well defined brand of politics”. “This photo is a beautiful moment, he notes (…) but it depends on who is being photographed. If it was someone else and everything was the same, I don’t think it would have had the same impact. “
Clothes that had already been spotted and hijacked
If no one has taken gloves to divert these mittens since Wednesday, they had been spotted for a year, says The world. PDuring the campaign for the Democratic primary and for the 2020 edition of the Women’s March in Portsmouth (New Hampshire), the 79-year-old senator wore them and they had already caught the eye of Internet users. A parody account had emerged on Twitter with a “biography” explaining that “only these mittens are capable of controlling the untimely movements of Bernie’s hands “.
The parka was worn by the senator in a video posted on December 31, 2019. He launched: “I’m once again asking for your financial support “(” I am once again asking for your financial support “), calling for the generosity of its activists for the financing of its campaign, recalls The world. The formula had been taken up and diverted and a site allowed to generate its own meme. She was again
But the story does not end there. Bernie Sanders used this uproar for a good cause. On his website, he sells a sweatshirt with the photo of Washington’s inauguration for 45 dollars (around 37 euros). The total income from the sale of this sweater “organic cotton fleece” is donated to an association, Meals on Wheels Vermont, which provides hot meals to people with chronic illnesses or disabilities.
The mittens, they put in the spotlight a voter of Bernie Sanders, Jennifer Ellis. It is in the creator. She never met him and was leading until Wednesday “a quiet life”, as she assures AFP. But this investiture ceremony changed everything. She was teaching her CE1 students online when her phone began to emit a series of “dings”. Worried, she interrupted her class to check the messages: “Bernie Sanders wears your mittens to the nomination”, they announced to him in substance.
Fan of the socialist senator, convinced ecologist, Jennifer had sent him a pair of mittens after her defeat against Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary for the 2016 presidential election, to console him. Then last year, when “Bernie” tried again for the presidential election, she learned that he had loaned the mittens to someone with cold hands. “I was so touched that I sent her 10 more pairs”, she smiles. Since Wednesday, she claims to have received “about 13,000 emails from people “ ready to buy him the same mittens, “and not just a pair, they want a lot”.
Little risk that this sudden notoriety and this influx of requests will turn his head. She would never be able to meet the demand, with her 30-year-old sewing machine and teaching job, and doesn’t even want to. “It would spoil all the beauty of the thing, she assures, I wish everyone more joy, if you give something to someone (…) and it explodes, and the whole world has joy, that’s great. “