Harry Styles standing on a rock by the ocean

Harry Styles Breaks Gender Norms in Fashion on the Cover of Vogue

By Rachael Gerron
Web Content Contributor

Last week, I woke up to the news that Harry Styles is to be featured on the cover of Vogue’s December issue, and I have not stopped talking about it since (neither has Twitter).

This appearance makes Styles the first man to appear solo on the cover of American Vogue in the magazine’s 128-year history. The news came just in time for International Men’s Day and I thought, what better way to celebrate it than to talk about the man who has been on top of the world in 2020?

Throughout his career, Styles has consistently proven that he is a man of many talents. He is most well known for being a singer, songwriter and musician, but in recent years, Styles has dabbled in acting and has become a fashion icon.

Styles has been praised for his gender-fluid looks; such as the one he wore at the 2019 Met Gala–a sheer, black, lacey blouse tucked into a pair of ultra-high-waisted black trousers and a single pearl earring. Even in his more casual appearances, Styles is rarely seen without his signature pearl necklace, painted nails or hands covered in silver and gold rings.

Gucci fashion designer and friend of Styles, Alessandro Michele said, “He is the image of a new era, of the way that a man can look.”

He wasn’t always this experimental with his fashion, though.

In his interview with Vogue, Styles recalls his stylist, Harry Lambert, suggesting a pair of flared pants for him to wear and he thought it was crazy. Since then, his style has evolved far from what it was then and now he is seen on the cover of Vogue in a poofy, Victorian-style dress.

“You can never be overdressed. There’s no such thing,” said Harry Styles. Screenshot taken by Rachael Gerron from “Harrys Styles sings acoustic Rendition of ‘Cherry'” by Vogue. 

“The people that I looked up to in music—Prince and David Bowie and Elvis and Freddie Mercury and Elton John—they’re such showmen,” said Styles. “As a kid, it was completely mind-blowing. Now I’ll put on something that feels really flamboyant, and I don’t feel crazy wearing it. I think if you get something that you feel amazing in, it’s like a superhero outfit.”

“Clothes are there to have fun with and experiment with and play with,” said Styles. “What’s really exciting is that all of these lines are just kind of crumbling away. 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. I’ll go in shops sometimes, and I just find myself looking at the women’s clothes thinking they’re amazing.”

Unfortunately, some people haven’t jumped on board with the idea of gender-fluid fashion.

Conservative author, Candace Owens, shared her interesting take on Harry’s dress in response to Vogue’s tweet.

“There is no society that can survive without strong men,” said Owens. “The East knows this. In the west, the steady feminization of our men at the same time that Marxism is being taught to our children is not a coincidence. It is an outright attack. Bring back manly men.”

I’m not sure how a person wearing an item of clothing is an “outright attack” on children, or an attack on anything for that matter. However, I do agree that society needs strong men. But clearly, we have different opinions on what makes a strong man.

Breaking gender norms is not easy. Harry is being true to himself and wearing clothes that he feels comfortable in, despite what narrow-minded people on Twitter will say about it.

It takes a strong person not to care what others think about them, and for that reason, he is a great example of what a strong man looks like. Styles says, “It’s like anything—anytime you’re putting barriers up in your own life, you’re just limiting yourself.”

Conservative commentator, Ben Shapiro also decided to chime in with a rampage about feminine and masculine clothing, replying to his own tweet seven times.

“Anyone who pretends that it is not a referendum on masculinity for men to don floofy dresses is treating you as a full-on idiot,” said Shapiro.

At one time, it was breaking a gender norm for women to wear pantsuits, but now, it is normal and even common. Clearly, a woman wearing a pantsuit isn’t viewed as a referendum on femininity, and men wearing dresses shouldn’t be viewed any differently.

There seems to be a double standard surrounding fashion in our society. Women can easily get away with wearing men’s fashion, but when men wear women’s clothing, it elicits responses such as the ones from Shapiro and Owens.

While conservative politicians and commentators on Twitter are convinced that Styles’ and Vogue are conspiring to abolish the existence of masculinity, Styles says, “There’s so much joy to be had in playing with clothes. I’ve never really thought too much about what it means…”

Styles is simply wearing clothes and accessorizing in a way that embraces his femininity; however that does not undermine his, or anyone else’s, masculinity.

At the end of the day, fashion is a form of self-expression and it’s something people should be able to have fun with. I believe because of men like Harry Styles, we will soon see more men becoming comfortable with experimenting with fashion and wearing what makes them comfortable without being shamed for it.

Until then, Styles’ historic appearance on the cover of Vogue is providing men and boys with an example of a successful man who is breaking gender norms through fashion, and that is something to celebrate this International Men’s Day!

Header image screen-shotted by Rachael Gerron from Harry Styles‘ “Golden” music video.

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