Harry Styles: Chameleon of multiple directions
It’s rare to find that one article of clothing that really does its job – much a sock that manages to keep its pair after multiple washes and misplacements. Yet every one of Harry Styles’ outfits seems to be a pairing of rogue socks that were destined to be together.
While part of One Direction, Harry Styles broke stereotype of coordinating colours and matching outfits, and was, without a doubt, the most directional dresser. Drake would be proud - Styles effectively embodies ‘started from the bottom, now we’re here’. The teen-friendly Jack Wills tracksuits and polos with popped collars have been traded in for the luxury clothing offered by esteemed fashion houses that Harry does an amazing job representing - Saint Laurent, Gucci and Burberry, to name but a few.
By 2014, when they were on tour for Where We Are, Harry took a liking to Hedi Slimane’s creations. The Saint Laurent bigwig created with extraordinary flair the very style that Harry would embody, and revolutionise. A timeline offers an effective insight into the evolution of his fashion choices: from the tux jackets, silk scarves and Wyatt boots of 2014, to the sharper and sleeker Gucci-heavy appeal of 2017. By this point, One Direction is no longer a band, with members having branched off into their own solo careers; Zayn unloading platinum record after platinum record and Louis and Liam becoming fathers. Harry has not only released songs, but has also taken a pair of scissors to his gloriously long locks for his role in Dunkirk, the movie. And the change that has come with that has been hard to ignore – boots with teasingly heightened heels, candyfloss pink suits and printed satin blouses. The looks he pulls off with ease not only blur the lines of gender identity, but are also pushing barriers of men’s clothing far and beyond the norm.
The fashion re-wiring began with Styles’ Instagram account, where on September 25th of last year, he posted a series of blank photos. After having been AWOL for nearly half a year, filming the Nolan war drama, this was the first fans had heard from him in some time. And without so much as 24 hours to come to terms with this, he laid three jaw-droppers at our feet – Another Man Magazine’s three alternative covers, all of him. It can be inferred that Styles was attempting to break the mould of the band, stepping out of his comfort zone. And it seemed to be a hint at his increased interest in fashion; it reflected his blossoming from simply a public figure to a man successfully finding his calling. Taking a page out of the playbooks of Kurt Cobain and Mick Jagger, Styles disassociated himself with the expectations anyone else held for him and, taking his future in his own hands, forged his own. The fashion world relies on mindless following sheep for some small part of its survival, but endures on the daring and gutsy personas that the muses create for themselves. Styles is a muse for the ages. He challenges himself as an artist and as his own person, one androgynous shirt and edgy magazine cover at a time.
Teen idols have a more or less straight and simple path from creation to success. They start off with an affiliation to the music industry; draw in crowds of a mostly teenage fan base on the grounds of their sex appeal and likability of their music. Regardless of how objectifying this might sound, this model has maintained its form through the tides of time – Backstreet Boys being one such timeless example. But in a time where acceptance of fluid sexuality was a whole lot more restrained than now, the phenomena of the male teen idol remains a bland one. Styles however, is not afraid to express his gender in multiple ways, whether flamboyant or subtly muted. Not shy of embracing androgyny or femininity, he crosses such lines with a devil-may-care attitude. A supporter and a friend of the LGBTQ+ community, Styles has even used interviews to make his point – with his reply of ‘Not important’ when Liam joked to say that for him to date a girl, it has to be a girl. The man’s upkeep isn’t always super masculine or heternomitive – the embodiment and respect he shows and commands for women is refreshing in the least. Not that this hasn’t been done before, with David Bowie’s androgynous and alien-like alter ego, Ziggy Stardust. This provided a sense of comfort for the LGBTQ+ community, mainstreaming them and propelling the image of the music star as more than just a rock and roll icon, but as an activist and embodiment of much-needed values. And as unapologetically as the man himself, Styles has experimented with gender expression and inspired a new generation to feel comfortable in their own skin, be they heterosexual, on the homosexual spectrum or identifying as non-binary. The sexy organic way in which he has harnessed both predominant genders is noteworthy, revolutionary and oh so necessary.
“Styles is a muse for the ages. He challenges himself as an artist and as his own person, one androgynous shirt and edgy magazine cover at a time.”
Even his current girlfriend is a beautiful creature carved from the same mould, who wore Styles’ floral printed Gucci shirt to a polo match, styled perfectly under a black blazer. Androgyny is the new power dynamic, with Grace Jones and multiple models and actresses standing in as examples. Letting go of whatever holds us back from being the true manifestations of our complexities, mood swings, confusions and sureties, is what makes us undeniably fragile, vulnerable and human. And in this new identity we forge for ourselves.