Harry Styles is the first man to be featured solo on the cover of Vogue, and the dress he wore has solicited both high praise and heavy criticism.
The Vogue photoshoot and interview with the 26-year-old singer were released online on November 13.
In the interview, Styles said, “You can never be overdressed. There’s no such thing. The people that I looked up to in music—Prince and David Bowie and Elvis and Freddie Mercury and Elton John—they’re such showmen. As a kid it was completely mind-blowing. Now I’ll put on something that feels really flamboyant, and I don’t feel crazy wearing it. I think if you get something that you feel amazing in, it’s like a superhero outfit.”
Styles said, “Clothes are there to have fun with and experiment with and play with. What’s really exciting is that all of these lines are just kind of crumbling away. 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. I’ll go in shops sometimes, and I just find myself looking at the women’s clothes thinking they’re amazing.”
“It’s like anything—anytime you’re putting barriers up in your own life, you’re just limiting yourself. There’s so much joy to be had in playing with clothes. I’ve never really thought too much about what it means—it just becomes this extended part of creating something.”
“I think with music it’s so important to evolve — and that extends to clothes and videos and all that stuff,” he said. “That’s why you look back at David Bowie with Ziggy Stardust or the Beatles and their different eras — that fearlessness is super inspiring.”
Styles will be returning to the big screen in Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling. Wilde commented about Styles, “To me, he’s very modern, and I hope that this brand of confidence as a male that Harry has—truly devoid of any traces of toxic masculinity—is indicative of his generation and therefore the future of the world. I think he is in many ways championing that, spearheading that. It’s pretty powerful and kind of extraordinary to see someone in his position redefining what it can mean to be a man with confidence.”
But Styles isn’t the first man to appear on a major magazine cover in a dress with the overt message of redoing masculinity. Singer Pharrell Williams also wore a duvet-styled dress on the cover of GQ in November 2019. The issue was titled the “New Masculinity issue, an exploration of the ways that traditional notions of masculinity are being challenged, overturned, and evolved.”
Styles’ fashion choices have received a range of feedback, from unsure, to disapproving, to rave reviews.
Conservative cultural figure and commentator, Candace Owens, criticized Styles for his effeminate fashion, coming under fire herself.
While some don't consider high fashion actually wearable, anyone who has seen The Devil Wears Prada knows how high fashion influences culture. So a man in a dress on the cover of Vogue is not just fashion, it's a cultural example and statement. And in our society's present wrestling with gender, gender roles, and what they mean for the individual and society, Harry Styles in a dress was sure to kickstart a lot of talk.