Harry Styles Breaks the Barriers of Toxic Masculinity

Advika Patange

Harry Styles made history this month as the first man on the cover of US Vogue. The cover features Styles in a Gucci ball gown paired with a tuxedo in the English countryside. He’s been known to play with self-expression through clothing in the past – his sheer top and chunky heels sparked conversation during the 2019 Met Gala. However, one thing’s for sure about Harry Styles: he’s not afraid to make controversial statements with his style.

Styles has always been fascinated with fashion. In his interview with Vogue, he stated, “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.” To Styles, anyone can wear whatever they want. Dresses, like any article of clothing, do not belong to one gender. 

Styles is a cisgender man, meaning that he identifies with the gender assigned to himself at birth. On one occasion, when asked about his sexuality, he replied with, “Who cares?” His rejection of the way that people perceive him and his sexuality on the surface translates into his clothing. Styles gains inspiration for his outfits from musical icons like Elton John and David Bowie, who share similar mentalities on clothing. When asked, Styles defended his flamboyant outfits by saying, “I want things to look a certain way. Not because it makes me look gay, or it makes me look straight, or it makes me look bisexual, but because I think it looks cool.” The British singer’s clothing choices are a reflection of how he wants to express himself. 

Of course, a statement like Harry’s Vogue photoshoot cannot be made without backlash. Some conservative personalities, such as Candace Owens and Ben Shapiro, have claimed that the magazine cover is an attack on masculinity and men in general. Harry’s indifference to criticism on his androgynous wardrobe has paved the way for others to follow suit. Men can shatter stereotypes and deny being boxed into societal expectations and Styles has the opportunity to inspire people using his large influence and fame.   

The root cause of condemning androgynous clothing is insecurity. In response to Styles’ magazine cover, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said,  “Perhaps for some people it provokes some anger or insecurity around masculinity/femininity/etc.” People have trouble understanding and accepting ideas or people that are new and different because of long-standing gender roles placed on all of us. This causes many to internalize the damaging expectations that stem from societal obligations and they lose their ability to express themselves. Overall, this has led to stunted growth, both in individuals and in society as a whole. Harry Styles and his flamboyant clothing expression have the potential to encourage others to be who they are and dress the way they want, but people are so concerned with how it could be damaging when they should be looking at how positively it could impact newer generations. 

Though Styles has opened the playing field for gender-neutral clothing, there is still so much more progress to be made. Styles is a rich, white, cisgendered man. He is receiving praise and recognition for what those in the LGBTQ+ community have been doing for decades. Despite the strides the singer has made, society itself has to become more accepting of expression through gender-nonconforming clothing in order to help everyone recognize their potential. 

Photo Courtesy of Pudelek.pl