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Harry Styles & His Vogue Cover Shoot: Breaking the Barriers of Gendered Clothing

Harry Styles fan or not, most people have probably seen at least one of the recent photos from his interview and shoot with Vogue magazine, which was released on Nov. 13. Personally, I think the photos are nothing short of iconic. I have been a fan of his for over a decade now, and I am so happy to see his confidence as an artist and as a person growing every day. 

In addition to his obvious talent for singing, Styles is also becoming quite the force to be reckoned with in the fashion industry. He’s not afraid of bold patterns, colorful manicures, and oh yeah, breaking the stereotypical gender patterns for clothing. Look at his Vogue shoot for example—several of the photos picture him in typically feminine-oriented clothing ranging from skirts to full-blown ball gowns.  

As much as many of his fans love to see him using his monumental platform to show that it’s okay for someone to dress and express themselves however they want, there are some people who don’t feel the same way. 

One of these people is conservative author Candace Owens. The following Saturday after Styles’ cover shoot released, Owens quote-tweeted Vogue to voice her concern over the feminization of men. 

 

Her tweet reads, “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.” 

This tweet sparked outrage from fans, various public figures, and more. Many people felt Owens’ tweet was an unnecessary attack on Styles, and it pushed a harmful narrative of toxic masculinity. 

 

Hence, why I am writing this article today. Owens’ tweet shaming Styles’ outfits in Vogue is a prime example of stereotypes that can be very damaging to men who do not fit into this so-called “manly” category. 

For what feels like forever, there have been historical and cultural expectations that men can only act tough, be socially dominant, and look or dress a certain way. Men are told that to be a “real man,” they must not cry or come across as anything close to feminine. 

 

Unfortunately, for many men, this particular image of masculinity is not the way in which they want to express themselves. So, these men get stuck in between a rock and a hard place—neither wanting to be discredited as a man, nor going against who they are.

This very premise is one of the main reasons why Styles dressing in the specific outfits he did for his cover shoot is so exciting to see. As touched on earlier, he has a huge fan base, and to know that he may be encouraging people to be confident in breaking traditional gender roles—especially with clothes—is to heartwarming. 

 

After all, clothing is just fabric

Clothing is meant to be an external expression of who we are internally, whether that expression matches stereotypical gender roles or not. Although the focus of this article is male fashion, the same statements can be said for anyone. People should wear whatever they want! Life is short, and those like Candace Owens only seem to be scared of the future in which people become more powerful as they express their true selves. 

As Styles said in his interview, “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.”

 

Accepting traditional barriers for benign objects like clothes is only going to place further limitations on you. So, wear whatever makes you happy, no matter what gender stereotypes are around it. And as always, remember to treat people with kindness.

 

Catherine Lippert, who goes by Cat, is a junior at Duquesne University. Originally from Buffalo, she is in a five-year Physician Assistant program and set to graduate in 2023. Cat is a longtime fan of One Direction and Harry Styles, loves to hike, and takes great pleaure in going to concerts to see her favorite musicians! In spring of 2020, she had the fantastic opportunity to study abroad in Rome, Italy, which taught her a lot about herself and the different cultures around her. After she graduates, she plans to move somewhere warmer than Buffalo and start working in a hospital emergency room, as well as use her free time to travel and to advocate for reforms concerning climate change. Oh, and she plans to get a cat or two from her local rescue!
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