Heroes of the 2010s: Lenny Kravitz’s Giant Scarf

It was as if a handmade gift from your grandma had gone viral.

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The staff of Mother Jones is rounding up the decade’s heroes and monsters. Find them all here.

Before Americans bastardized the Danish coziness lifestyle trend called hygge, before HBO revolutionized winter wear with a hit series about media ownership and turtlenecks (mostly turtlenecks), before Baby Yoda sipped tea in a sheepskin cloak, there was Lenny Kravitz and his blanket scarf. 

Back in 2012, Kravitz stepped out for a quick grocery store run that turned into one of this decade’s most wholesome memes. The viral paparazzi photo is relatively standard—it shows Kravitz in sunglasses and a knit hat, strolling down the New York sidewalk—save for the fact that he’s wearing a scarf that would be more at home on a queen-sized bed.

And as the meme’s popularity grew, so did the scarf itself.

Nearly 10 years later, Kravitz is still being asked about the iconic scarf.  Fashion magazines still debate whether the photo depicts Kravitz’s biggest style fail or the day “Lenny Kravitz invented scarves.” When Jimmy Fallon brought it up in a 2018 interview, Kravitz groaned, “I cannot escape this.”

Quite frankly, I’m not sure why he would want to. In a decade marred by impending climate disaster and the crumbling of American democracy, Kravitz and his scarf evoke a sense of coziness, a sense that one can cosset oneself from the ravages of the day, should one have access to the entire ovine population of Scotland. The phrase “Lenny Kravitz scarf” returns more than two dozen results on the popular craft and e-commerce site Etsy, and according to Google trends, there’s been a spike in searches for that phase every December since 2012. 

And even if duvet-sized scarves aren’t to your taste, there’s some comforting nostalgia in the fact that a scarf (and don’t even get me started on The Dress) could go viral in the early half of the decade. Now, whenever I see a celebrity name trending, it almost always means they’ve denied the Holocaust or said something horrible about trans people or stuck up for plutocrats. The longevity of the Kravitz meme is proof that not all heroes wear capes; some wear comically large scarves.

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Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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