From Our Community: Why is Michigan the Real Mitten State?

“The Great Mitten debate,” “Mittengate” and “The Battle for the Mitten” are just some of the interesting names popping up from the fallout from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism’s decision to put up an image of a somewhat stretched-out mitten for its new winter activity section on its website. That move has sparked a wave of pride and defense from Michiganders and has gained national attention. We’ve started a website to help determine who truly is the mitten state that you can find on

There have been hundreds of comments and Tweets we’ve read responding to the question we posed today on our Facebook and Twitter pages asking: “Why is Michigan the real mitten state?” Here are a few we came across. Thanks to all who responded!

“Because when Paul Bunyan was chopping down trees in the winter he dropped his mittens and over time it became the state of Michigan!!!! Why do you think we have statues of Paul Bunyan all over in the state???” –Mary Doyle on Facebook

“Their [Wisconsin’s] attempt looks like they pulled a mitten over the top of some guy wearing a cheesehead hat.” –Brent L. Larson on Facebook

“I had hoped to support Wisconsin’s mittenosity, but after wasting some time in Photoshop, I must concede that the lower peninsula of Michigan requires the least hand deformation to wear.” –Rexella Van Impe on

“I knit a mitten once that looked kind of looked like Wisconsin. I didn’t knit the second one.” –  @JulieKay0919 on Twitter

“Dear Wisconsin, Identity check: You are not a mitten. But as they say, imitation is the greatest form of flattery. #PureMichigan” –@mattfrendewey on Twitter

“We have an attitude and we show it. Everyone can “talk to the mitten” if you wanna dish Mich!!!” –Cheryl Love Taylor on Facebook

“Because it’s the only state where you might have to wear mittens in May, but may NOT need them on Thanksgiving?” –Kathy Wolf Smyser on Facebook

“You know, this mitten thing could really take off!” – @MKelto on Twitter

“If you look at the shape, it’s obviously a mitten. No matter where you go in the U.S.A. if you say you’re from Michigan people get it when you hold up your hand and show them where you’re from. No other state can you do that without confusing the crap out of someone.” – Kristen Wheeler on Facebook

“Because, even on the map, our hand is raised in greeting hello!” – Lois Payette on Facebook

“I don’t want to get into it. Talk to the hand.” – Sue Stuever Battel on Facebook


18 thoughts on “From Our Community: Why is Michigan the Real Mitten State?

  1. Okay….Michigan Lower Peninsula: Mitten…Illinois: Other Mitten (upside down with the thumb tucked in)…Michigan Upper Peninsula: Scarf…Wisconsin: Slouchy Beanie…Minnesota: Left Boot…Indiana: Right Boot…Ohio: a Down Vest. The Great Lakes’ “Winter Wardrobe”. If Ontario wants to get in on this, they can be a Parka (kind of laying on its back with the hood up).

  2. [...] about Wisconsin, our neighbor across Lake Michigan. Wisconsinites claimed that their state also looked like a mitten. This was roundly pooh-poohed in Michigan. After all, Dorr County, the little nubbin of a peninsula [...]

  3. Thanks Leslie, for reminding readers how to demonstrate the Upper Peninsula mitten position. I’m surprised Pure Michigan posted that skeletal photo without positioning the hand for the UP….shame on them….or whoever created that comparison. The UP hosts so many of Michigan’s vacationland destinations. Come UP, Wisconsinites!
    And, Kimberly, great idea to suggest Stormy Kromers. Mittens and Kromers…what a way to promote the Northlands… add a winter accessory for Minnesota to promote a trio of Great Lakes states.

  4. Lol….I think this whole mitten thing has been a lot of fun. C.H., I think anything is great that we take pride in. Michigan looks like a mitten and poor Wisconsin wants to cash in on our shapely state. So, join in the fun and don’t be such a sourpuss. Love the Native American legends about both the U.P. and the L.P.

  5. I was born and raised in michigan and i think its pretty sad when michiganders take pride in the shape of land masses. please stop taking pride and offense to things that you didn’t have a hand in creating (no pun intended).

  6. Oh and this has nothing to do with Wisconsin or Michigan, but I think Louisiana looks like a sock, or a boot….

  7. ….. Wisconsin has got to be joking. It doesn’t look a THING like a mitten. It should get its own thing and let Michigan keep its title. Maybe Wisconsin is a right hand fist and part of a wrist as seen from the back of the hand… at least the HUGE RANDOM DEFORMED LUMP on the left hand side makes more sense that way. As a fist, it’s the thumb side of the hand which protrudes from the side of the wrist anyway, which isn’t as dumb as a random lump just glued to the side of a mitten. Sure that disregards the tiny peninsula that they’re claiming is a thumb, but that giant lump on the left seems more important to me that little blip of a peninsula on the right… seems to me they’re forgetting a larger chunk of their state than Michiganders are. We can use the mitt for the lower peninsula or a hand with the thumb down and pinky up for the upper one and we only need to be talking at one or the other at a time anyway, where as they’re ALWAYS leaving out that big chunk if they use the mitt for their state. Wisconsin is a fist! Let Michigan be the Mitt!

  8. Hey Wisconsin, give it up! I am from Ohio, and everyone
    here knows the “state from up north” is the Mitten State, not you all.

  9. We are TWO mittens. Hold up left hand, palm away from you, point fingers to the right so thumb points down. Hold up right hand with palm towards you, just below your left hand, with fingertips of right hand just below left. Voila! Michigan!!

  10. Okay, Wisconsin…you can keep the ‘Cheesehead’ status as well as your ‘dairy air’…we are THE mitten!!

  11. Wisconsin looks like a piece of cheese. Here in Ohio we all vacation in Michigan. I grew up in the mitten. There’s even an island 1/2 way between Wisconsin and Michigan on Lake Michigan called Beaver Island – and by golly it’s shaped like a mitten too! They are Michiganders and mostly Irish. Look them up online when you get the chance. Great place to visit and live the rustic life!

  12. You can take a pair of mittens and make a map of Michigan. I’ve seen them sold online and in souvenir shops, and I’ve seen schoolchildren do it as a class project. Wisconsin seems to be the Lost Mitten, the match that disappeared when it was caught on something that twisted it all out of shape so its no good any more. But that’s not a charitable view of our Sister Great Lake State. In hopes of fostering goodwill, I propose to Wisconsin’s tourism advertising agency that perhaps a winter hat such as the Stormy Kromer of Da Yoop might better represent Wisconsin as a winter tourist spot. After all, a pair of mittens & a Stormy Kromer keep you toasty outdoors. And besides, nobody just goes to Wisconsin for winter vacations – people figure, “We’re up here anyway, might as well head into Hemingway Territory.”

  13. I always thought Michigan was the Mitten state.. it looks like a left hand mitten. NO other state looks like a left hand mitten.. I also remember when I was little that one legend was the from the Native Americans in the state of Michigan said the Spirit God ( Indian) put his left hand out to stop the world from Spinning to fast.

  14. I remember hearing the Paul Bunyon story in elementary school. And LOL at Brittany for the Florida remark. No other state is so easy to recognize and point out where you live other than Michigan.

  15. If you’re from Michigan, you have a built in map you can whip out and show people at any time. No other state really resembles a body part. …except maybe Florida, but let’s see how many times you can whip that out before getting arrested.

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