The 2019 Met Gala, marked the beginning of a new fashion period for Harry Styles — one in which he strayed from the binary. . His outfit at the event included pearl earrings, often seen as a symbol of femininity, and colorfully painted nails. These two additions to his outfit were strikingly uncommon for men to have, even though the Met Gala is known for having the biggest fashion statements in Hollywood. Additionally, at the 2021 Grammys, Styles went against the social norm of wearing a suit and walked down the red carpet with a lavender feather boa.
The event that marked him truly becoming the icon for gender-neutral fashion started when he was featured on the cover of Vogue Magazine. His photoshoot was groundbreaking as he became the first solo man to wear a dress for the cover of Vogue. Styles is shown wearing a pale blue Gucci dress with a black blazer over it. By pairing two highly gendered articles of clothing, Harry Styles tears down all sorts of social stigmas including “boys cannot wear dresses”, “blazers are only for men”, and “rings should only be worn by women”.
As for day-to-day and concert fashion, Harry Styles does not stray from his androgynous style. Paparazzi often catch him on the streets wearing a graphic tee under a cardigan, button-down, or sweater vest with neutral colored pants. He accessorizes with necklaces, rings, and bags, but they do not necessarily further his gender-neutral brand as much as his concert outfits. Throughout Love on Tour, Styles tour for his album Fine Line, Styles kept the same stylistic foundation or theme for each concert with different colors. They usually consisted of a flashy shirt, suspenders, flared trousers, and leather boots. His concert attire influenced his fans, as they turned it into their own fashion show all over social media, especially on TikTok where people would be decked out in boas and glitter.
Though Harry Styles has received praise for rising above ideas of toxic masculinity, he has also faced backlash for becoming the face of gender-neutral fashion. Billy Porter is Styles’ main critic. When Styles wore a combination of a tuxedo and a black gown to the 2019 Oscars, Porter stated that his main issue with Harry Styles is him being applauded and being called courageous for doing what queer people of color (POC) have been trying to do for far longer. Famous rock stars Prince and Freddie Mercury have been dressing flamboyantly since the 80s and were open about their support for the LGBTQ+ community. When Billy Porter was talking about Harry Styles in an interview with The Sunday Times he said, “He doesn’t care, he’s just doing it because it’s the thing to do.” Porter feels Styles should not get the credit he is receiving as he did not pave the way for non-binary people to be accepted in society.
Billy Porter is not the only person who does not support Harry Styles’ new image. Candance Owens critiqued Styles and his dress choice for the Vogue Magazine cover Owens tweeted “There is no society that can survive without strong men. 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.”
Her argument is rooted in gender inequality as she credits “manly men” for the success of society. The definition of “manly” is subjective, but in Candance Owens’ eyes, a man in a dress contributes to Marxism, which is essentially the basis of communism. Though some agreed with Candace Owens, Styles’ immense fan base supports him and he even subtly retaliated. Harry Styles posted on Instagram in a baby blue suit with a frilly white shirt underneath along with the caption, “Bring back manly men.”.
Furthering his work with Gucci, Harry Styles helped to market a gender-neutral fragrance in 2019. The fragrance is named Mémoire D’une Odeur and no gender is specified on the bottle, welcoming all people to use it. Harry Styles actively tries to normalize gender neutrality. He even mentioned in an interview with Vogue that he believes “We no longer need to be this or that. I think now, people are just trying to be good…In fashion and other fields, these parameters are no longer as strict as before, and it gives rise to great freedom. It’s stimulating.”
The limits in fashion, as well as other areas of life, are slowly becoming looser, allowing for more expression. Gender neutrality is not exactly accepted by everyone yet, but Harry Styles’ goal is to work towards a world where a man’s impact on society is not measured by the clothes he is wearing.