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How Harry Styles Uses Style to Break Down Gender Norms

How Harry Styles Uses Style to Break Down Gender Norms


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Harry Styles went from being known as a teen heartthrob and supposed “womanizer” during his days in One Direction, to a fashion icon and trailblazer breaking gender norms as a solo artist. Styles has paved the way for other artists and celebrities—men and women—to break down toxic masculinity altogether. 

Styles recently released his single “As It Was” from his upcoming album, Harry’s House, which is set to be released on May 20. Styles hasn’t released an album since 2019 and his fans were expecting a lot. Styles delivered.

In the music video for the single, Styles displays his gender-fluidity, dressed in a red sequin jumpsuit with a female dance partner in blue as they move along a spinning platform. What sets this music video apart from his others is his ability to shift from the masculine role to the feminine at different points of the film. At one point Harry is embracing his female partner, protecting her, and visibly embodying the masculine energy between them. 

At another point, Styles lets go of her and begins dancing, twirling like a ballerina. In a 2019 interview with the Guardian, Styles said, “If I see a nice shirt and get told, ‘But it’s for ladies.’ I think: ‘Okaaaay? Doesn’t make me want to wear it less though.’ I think the moment you feel more comfortable with yourself, it all becomes a lot easier.” It’s clear that Styles sees no gender in clothes, and that is comfortable with being completely himself. 

Styles has always played around with his feminine side and he’s definitely not afraid of experimenting when it comes to fashion. In November of 2020, he appeared on the cover of Vogue as the first-ever man to appear solo, wearing a Gucci dress. 

After the cover was published, conservative political commentator Candace Owens tweeted, “There is no society that can survive without strong men.. It is an outright attack. Bring back manly men.”

In response to this, Styles captioned a photo on his Instagram with “Bring back manly men.”

Just like his music, Styles’ fashion taste was not always this bold and daring during his One Direction days. Styles’ loved rocking loose blouses with skinny jeans and his signature Chelsea boots. From time to time, though, he’d bring out a bold pattern to shake things up a bit. Even at this point in his career, he was embracing his feminine side with no regrets.

Styles dressed in a pink ballerina’s tutu for a Saturday Night Live show in 2019.

Styles’ has explored different realms of fashion and style to the point where fans were quick to label his different “phases,” in which his hair and his choice of clothing drastically changed each time. It all started with “Fetus Harry,” straight from the X-Factor, then “Fratboy Harry,” to “Bandana Harry,” “Prince Hair Harry,” “Long Hair Harry,” “Dunkirk Harry,” and more recently, “Fine Line Harry.” 

Styles at the X-Factor Studio in 2010

Styles in 2013

Styles at his St. Louis show in 2021 for LOVE ON TOUR

Since going solo, Styles’ fashion taste has grown tremendously. He brought back 70s and 80s fashion during his first solo tour, “Live on Tour” with floral suits, sequins, and even a pleated skirt at his show in Glasgow, Scotland. 

Styles at his New York City show on September 28, 2017, wearing patterned bell bottoms.

Styles takes the stage in an enthusiastic and traditional Scottish pleated skirt in Glasgow on November 2, 2017.

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When it comes to embracing both masculinity and femininity, Styles told Timothee Chalamet in an i-D interview in 2018 that his friends and family played a big role in discovering who he wants to be.

“I didn’t grow up in a man’s man world. I grew up with my mum and my sister. But I definitely think in the last two years, I’ve become a lot more content with who I am. I think there’s so much masculinity in being vulnerable and allowing yourself to be feminine, and I’m very comfortable with that. Growing up you don’t even know what those things mean.”

Growing up in the spotlight and in one of the biggest boy bands in the world can also put a strain on your self-discovery journey. 

“You have this idea of what being masculine is and as you grow up and experience more of the world, you become more comfortable with who you are. Today it’s easier to embrace masculinity in so many different things. I definitely find — through music, writing, talking with friends, and being open — that some of the times when I feel most confident is when I’m allowing myself to be vulnerable. It’s something that I definitely try and do,” said Styles.

Chalamet, acclaimed Lady Bird and Dune actor, has also adopted a a gender bending style. He plays around with feminine materials and daring patterns. In his interview with Styles, he expressed his excitement for modern masculinity. “There isn’t a specific notion, or jean size, or muscle shirt, or affectation, or eyebrow raise, or dissolution, or drug use that you have to take part in to be masculine. It’s exciting. It’s a brave new world,” said Chalamet.

Styles is popular with many members of the LGBTQ+ community. On his last tour, videos surfaced the internet of him helping fans come out in the middle of his shows, as he danced around the stage waving the LGBTQ flag. 

Styles at one of his shows last year after he helped a fan come out. He then screamed “Freedom.”

The intro to Styles last tour was and still is the epitome of who he is. The Love On Tour introduction features the work of poet Charles Bukowski.  The poem echoes through the crowd, as the build up for the song “Golden” begins to play.  “Style,” Bukowski says, “Style is the answer to everything. A fresh way to approach a dull or dangerous thing. To do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without it. To do a dangerous thing with style is what I call art.”

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