Bernie Sanders becomes a meme

The teacher who created the recycled wool mittens that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders wore to the presidential inauguration is partnering with the Vermont Teddy Bear Company to create a whole mitten line to meet soaring demand. Some of the proceeds will be going to Make-A-Wish Vermont. “I can’t be more thrilled, because I personally can’t make 18,000 pairs of mittens,” Jen Ellis said Saturday, estimating how many people have contacted her. “Everybody will get their mittens — everybody.”

Ellis is a Vermont elementary school teacher who has a side business making mittens out of recycled wool. She had given Sanders a pair as a gift, and he wore them to President Joe Biden’s inauguration. His fashion look sparked countless memes prompted by the photo taken by Agence France-Presse: The former presidential candidate could be found on social media timelines. He can be seen taking a seat on the subway, the moon, and the couch with the cast of “Friends,” among other creative locales.

Sanders has raised at least $1.8 million in merchandise for charities. Sanders put out so-called “Chairman Sanders” merchandise, including T-shirts, sweatshirts and stickers, on his campaign website. “Jen is going to work hand-in-hand — mitten-in-hand — with each one of our designers” to ensure that the ‘Bernie mitten’ design in multiple patterns is produced in a way that meets her standards of quality, said Hayes McCarthy, vice president of product innovation, brand creative and consumer experience. “We’re excited to be in the mittens category.”

It’s not clear when the first mittens would be available for purchase. In the past, Vermont Teddy Bear has made special bears to raise money for Make-A-Wish Vermont, and recently gave office space to the organization for $1 a year, said James Hathaway, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish Vermont. Hathaway said the charity had lost $250,000 in revenue during the COVID19 pandemic. “We are so grateful to Vermont Teddy Bear, Jen, and of course to Bernie for being so Bernie,” Hathaway said in a statement.