By Claire DaQuino
If you know nothing about Harry Styles, I feel deeply sorry for you. Read Vogue’s “Playtime with Harry Styles” and you will see, with the singer’s raw talent and compassionate nature, he is truly deserving of this cover. Featured on the December 2020 cover, Harry Styles is the first solo male on US Vogue.
While Harry Styles is best known for his two critically acclaimed solo albums, five years in One Direction, and signature hair, he can also be recognized by his unique, playful style. Over the years, he has experimented with clothes, and currently is often seen rocking pearl necklaces, chunky sweaters, lace, high-waisted pants, painted nails, and countless other iconic looks. Becoming comfortable with wearing clothing he loves, regardless of gender norms, Styles encourages everyone to take a step back from the constraints around clothing rooted in toxic masculinity, and wear what allows them to feel most confident. While there is surely a practicality aspect to clothing, there is also a strong aspect of personal expression and experimentation. According to Styles in Vogue, “when you take away ‘There’s clothes for men and there’s clothes for women,’ once you remove any barriers, obviously you open up the arena in which you can play.”
Unfortunately, Styles received immense backlash from people who, at first glance, appear afraid of change. However, deep down, they are just terrified of men, especially Harry Styles, looking better in a dress than they ever could. Jokes aside, their arguments for why men should “stay manly” are entirely false. Political commentator, Candace Owens, for example, tweeted in response to the article, “there is no society that can survive without strong men. The East knows this.” In many Eastern countries, men have worn clothing like dresses for centuries. In India, men wear Dhotis and in Japan, men wear kimonos. Pants do not equate to the strength of a man, as men have been wearing skirts and dresses significantly longer than they have been wearing pants. Men only began wearing pants when riding horses became popular. As horses are no longer necessary in war or for transportation, there is no reason that men should still be expected to wear pants. Thus, Owens’ internalized misogyny becomes crystal clear, as men can experience the same amount of success whether they choose to wear dresses or pants. After all, Harry Styles is wearing dresses and thriving.
Before Harry Styles, celebrities including Billy Porter and David Bowie have worn dresses, so Styles’ style choice should not come as a shock to anyone. Still, many people are not ready to give up the notion that strength and masculinity equates to clothing choices. Harry Styles is not the first, and will surely not be the last to challenge gender stereotypes, but for now, his individuality provides immense promise for the future of fashion.
Thanks to Harry Styles, and the many style icons that came before him, there is a little more hope that “this brand of confidence as a male that Harry has—truly devoid of any traces of toxic masculinity—is indicative of his generation and therefore the future of the world.”