This is an excerpt from Please Like Me, the BuzzFeed News newsletter about influencers and internet culture. You can sign up here. In our new column, Social Media Made Me Do It, we try a new trend, product, or tip from the feed.
“It’s that time of year, we need to go to the scarf guy,” TikTok user Kimberly Quiros says in her trending video.
Manhattan is one of those places where there’s always a trinket to buy, whether that’s a bucket hat, license plate fridge magnet, or bedazzled T-shirt. But TikTok has been fixated on one particular stand: the man selling winter accessories on the corner of 38th Street and Seventh Avenue.
For $15–$20, TikTok users have advertised, you can buy a big, soft, nubby scarf in colors that are dead ringers for the viral designer item of the season, the Acne Studios checked and fringed scarf that I’ve seen on my feeds dozens of times. It’s a dupe that gives the general vibe of the $280 item, but with lower quality and without the need to dip into your savings account.
“not me wanting to travel to the city for a scarf,” one user commented. “Used 2 work at the Starbucks in front of his stand & got the best stuff from him,” another said.
I set out to meet Scarf Guy on a rainy day, but the weather didn’t stop capitalism, with merchandise covered under swaths of gray cloth. He introduced himself as Joe (no surname provided) and let me take a look at the scarves.
Joe said he has seen more people coming to his stand who tell him they saw him on the internet. “I have this stand a long time, more than 15 years,” he said. “Some years are big, some are slow. Every year more people will do videos.”
But every year, the routine is the same. Joe said he starts his day at 9 a.m. and closes up shop at 6 p.m. “I have big family, you know?” he said. I did not know! Some users have said the prices have increased to $20 since going viral. When I asked Joe if he’d raised his prices because of social media, he said no. “No change,” he shrugged.
The scarves themselves are soft, made of what I guessed was polyester. They were softer than I thought they would be — very cozy and sizable, so you can snuggle deep within the fabric. But as always, you get what you pay for with dupe items, so they are thin and widely woven, easy to snag, and won’t last forever. But probably long enough for the next trend to arrive.