His pose is now called "Chairman Sanders" and has been turned into t-shirts, sweatshirts, and stickers.
Plenty of historic photos remind us of the most iconic events that mankind has ever seen. But the one photograph from this year's presidential inauguration, that has been the most widely discussed is not that of Joe Biden being sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. It is of Senator Bernie Sanders sitting on a folding chair, with his legs crossed and hands kept nice and warm in hand-knit mittens while maintaing social distancing during the pandemic.
Some may find it hard to understand what the big deal about the photo is, but everyone would agree that Sanders' attitude and his wardrobe were in stark contrast to everything and everyone else around him.
Compared to the well-dressed and bubbling with excitement of the swearing-in, Bernie Sanders stood out because he clearly didn't care as much, and in doing so, won the approval of almost every 20-something watching the inauguration. "I love Bernie's "I couldn't care less about pomp and circumstance" coat and mittens combo," tweeted one user. Another said, "I wanna be Michelle Obama but I know I'm a Bernie Sanders."
Soon after the photograph was clicked, the Vermont senator, often labeled the "cool grandad" found himself photoshopped into tons of pictures online, some showing him sitting bemused next to television characters and others showing him right in the middle of famous photographs from the past.
The best Bernie Sanders Inauguration meme pic.twitter.com/VSn8gtryY4— UGene🐝 (@EugeneGlukh) January 20, 2021
"I was just sitting there trying to keep warm, trying to pay attention to what was going on," Sanders said about the moment on Late Night with Seth Meyers, according to EW.
Speaking about the mittens that gave internet users tons of memes to scroll through, Sanders added, "What was really nice, Seth, was the woman who made the mittens lives in Essex Junction, Vermont. She is a school teacher and a very, very nice person, and she has been somewhat overwhelmed with the kind of attention that is being shown to her mittens."
In Vermont, we know something about the cold. And we’re not so concerned about good fashion. pic.twitter.com/zDtrToPbun— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) January 23, 2021
As always, Sanders stayed cool as a cucumber after his photograph caused an online eruption of memes. And while Bernie has always had the attention of young voters in the country, but never let it get to his head, he did decide to put his popularity to good use this time. The 79-year-old senator decided to turn his own meme into a fundraiser and raised a massive amount for charity.
The now-titled 'Chairman Sanders" picture was put on t-shirts, sweatshirts, and stickers, and they were all sold on his official website. The best part about this is, the very first batch of merchandise that went on sale took less than half an hour to be completely sold out, which can tell you just how popular Bernie and his unexpected meme was on the internet.
The website added another stock which also eventually ran out, according to NBC News. Sanders was able to raise $1.8 million over the last one week and donated the entire amount to charitable organizations in Vermont, his home state.
In a statement he later gave, Sanders said, "Jane and I were amazed by all the creativity shown by so many people over the last week, and we’re glad we can use my internet fame to help Vermonters in need. But even this amount of money is no substitute for action by Congress, and I will be doing everything I can in Washington to make sure working people in Vermont and across the country get the relief they need in the middle of the worst crisis we’ve faced since the Great Depression."
Although the internet couldn't get enough of Sanders being completely himself and not giving a hoot about the pomp and splendor of Biden's swearing-in, the photographer who clicked the picture called the composition "garbage."
The man who captured the moment, Brendan Smialowski, works at the news agency Agence France-Presse and said he took two pictures of Sanders that day. Although the composition and technicalities of the other picture were better, he decided to send in the now-famous one because of Sanders' pose.
"I sent [the famous one] because the moment – his posture, his pose – is a little better," Smialowski said, as reported by Independent. "But the composition was garbage. It was messy, but it was a better moment. I always say that in photojournalism, composition comes second to content."
Thanks to the photographer's decision, the Senator was able to raise almost two million dollars for charity in his home state.