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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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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