Harry 'Styles' it Out on Vogue: Cover Controversy

Harry Styles is an iconic singer, songwriter and actor who’s main motto is to ‘treat people with kindness’. Styles first used this motto on his debut solo album tour in 2017 and since then has created music and merchandise that features the slogan. Since coming out of the global phenomenon One Direction in 2015, Harry has been focusing on his solo career. He has been concentrating on expressing himself and promoting kindness, love and acceptance amongst his fans. He has also been a strong activist for the Pride movement, often bringing out the flag during performances. During two of his London gigs at the O2 Arena, each audience member was given coloured cellophane to place over their phone torches which together created a rainbow around the arena.

 

As well as his countless other accomplishments, Harry recently became the first male star to spotlight on the cover of Vogue magazine. How cool is that, Harry is the first male cover star in Vogue’s 128 years of running? In the feature, he is seen striking poses in multiple stereotypically ‘feminine’ dresses. In response to the cover, he recently expressed the ''joy to be had in playing with clothes”. Elaborating on this further, he said “I’ve never thought too much about what it means—it just becomes this extended part of creating something”. Whilst many applauded Harry’s subversion of gender norms, some were angered by the decision to feature a cisgender white man as the first to appear on a Vogue cover. Many claimed that they would rather have seen a transgender individual as the first to feature and that this would have been a better celebration of the subversion of gender norms. Some stated that they had been fighting for the blurring of gender identity lines for decades, enduring a lot of pain and hardship for the cause. So, when a white male celebrity, who is seemingly new to the gender expression scene, gets credited with revolutionising gender fluidity in fashion, it didn’t sit well with those individuals.

 

Political activist and author, Candace Owens, took particular offence to the feminine styles Harry exhibited, saying that “there is no society that can survive without strong men. The East knows this. In the west, the steady feminisation 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.” It was an odd decision to criticise one of the most loved personalities on the planet and arguably even more absurd to so openly express such outdated beliefs.

 

The Lord of the Rings actor Elijah Wood defended Harry, arguing that Owen had “missed the definition of what a man is. Masculinity alone does not make a man. In fact, it’s got nothing to do with it”. Harry also responded to Owen’s backlash by posting a photograph eating a banana in a beautifully frilled pastel blue suit, with the caption ‘bring back manly men’. The most epically ironic, yet powerful response.

 

Gender norms are arguably an outdated concept. The 21st century media is embracing the ‘feminisation of men’ more than ever before. On TikTok men are wearing eyeliner and nail varnish and this is becoming the mainstream. There are actually many trends on TikTok that support the blurring of gender lines. One trend in particular was recently circulating, in which men post videos dancing in skirts and some even in maid costumes, supporting the freedom of men from their oppressive ‘manly men’ stereotypes. 

 

Harry’s promotion of judgement-free self-expression should be praised. His feature on Vogue is well deserved considering his many remarkable achievements within the fashion industry. From co-hosting the 2019 Met Gala to being the new face of GUCCI, Styles has achieved world-wide icon status. Vogue should still be encouraged towards diversifying their range of cover stars to feature; Transgender/ non-binary/ queer/ black individuals. Owens was wrong to speak out against the 21st century embrace of unhindered self-expression. This is a movement thriving more than ever and will likely continue to do so thanks to influencers and celebrities like Harry Styles who help to promote the cause, even if it does contradict outdated cultural norms.

 

Words By: Maisy Healey

Edited By: Olivia Snelson