Fashion is rarely out of the news, and a case in point is Harry Styles’ Vogue cover. It was a powerful statement in a world of gender-restricted clothing. The best thing about it was how the Harry Vogue cover blew away people’s fashion expectations and shattered the fashion glass ceiling for other gender-fluid individuals.
Gender fluidity is a very interesting topic that can be interpreted in many ways. There isn’t one definition for it, and that’s the way it should be. Fashion industry experts say gender-fluidity is more of a style statement than what people think. It is a state of mind - and can be reflected in any way - through one's style, mannerisms or fashion choices.
Former One Direction superstar Harry Styles has proven to be quite popular in his own right amongst music and fashion connoisseurs alike. He has been appreciated for his androgynous flair consistently shown off in recent photoshoots. Styles has been making headlines since the November 2020 issue of Vogue magazine featuring him wearing a ballgown, a Victorian crinoline, and a trench coat by luxury fashion house Gucci.
Speaking with Vogue, Harry said that dressing up is something that brings him joy. It is something he has been interested in since childhood. Growing up in Britain, Harry observed pop icons and Rock ‘N Roll stars transforming their looks and breaking down boundaries.
Harry makes no qualms about overturning convention when it comes to fashion. The Watermelon Sugar hitmaker is open about how he isn’t afraid to challenge gender norms, donning long skirts or nail polish regularly. He's even opened up about wearing high heels in the past. His eclectic sense of style is just another way he chooses to express his confidence and embody the power that comes along with accepting one’s identity.
Fans are proud that Styles isn’t shying away from pushing traditional boundaries and expressing himself openly. In fact, after the cover shoot, Styles’ fan base is expected to grow significantly this year. More people will soften their views towards those who aren’t completely comfortable being pigeonholed into society’s narrow definitions of masculinity.
In an interview to discuss the Harry Vogue cover, the singer said that there are no longer any restrictions on what you can wear based on your gender. “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,” he remarked. He continued, “I’ll go in shops sometimes and I just find myself looking at the women’s clothes, and think to myself they look amazing.”
Harry has encouraged everyone to think outside the box and not pay attention to what society says is right or wrong. People have expressed how liberating it feels to show yourself to the world in a way that speaks only to your own style.
Styles is an undeniably creative person, and he deserves all the credit for challenging norms. However, the gender-neutral movement began long before Styles. Transgender and gender non-conforming folks also wear whatever they like - it’s just not in the spotlight like Styles. The LGBTQ community also fought long and hard against anti-cross-dressing laws in an effort to normalize alternative gender aesthetics so they can be worn freely.
Many artists such as Prince, Kurt Cobain, and David Bowie defied gender norms associated with style long before Styles did. Bad Bunny, Lil Nas X, Jared Leto, Kanye West and Pharrell Williams are some contemporary examples of fellow pop stars who have also pushed the boundaries and donned garments that challenge gender associations.
Despite all its good publicity, the Harry Vogue cover also caused an uproar in the US when it was published. Conservative figures like Candace Owens and Ben Shapiro tweeted: “Bring back manly men.” It echoes the stigma against gender-fluidity in fashion, which is still propagated in society despite many prominent male celebrities foregoing such fashions.
Despite the encouragement for gender neutrality, the Harry Vogue cover still shows a lack of representation and disregards gender-nonconforming individuals who established the gender-fluid fashion trend way before him.
This is most evident in the December issue where gender-neutral fashion is scarcely discussed, and high profile celebrities such as Harry Styles are praised for wearing such clothing rather than those who helped to create these trends.
Nonetheless, it is promising that Styles took a courageous stance. But publications should be more inclusive of other minority groups within the LGBTQ community and give credit where it's due, especially to people who started this trend long before Harry Styles.