“Bring Back Manly Men”: Harry Styles and His Controversial Fashion Choices


Harry Styles wearing a light blue gown in the December 2020 issue of Vogue. Credit: Tyler Mitchell

Emily Roberts

Ever since his debut on X-Factor in 2010, Harry Styles has been a household name. From his One Direction days to the release of the Fine Line album, Harry’s fashion has completely evolved, defying gender constructs and becoming more androgynous.


Styles began to express himself through fashion towards the end of his time in One Direction. He was often seen wearing vibrant floral or patterned suits, which were usually from the brand Gucci. In 2018, he became the face of Gucci’s tailoring collection campaign and co-hosted the 2019 Met Gala. Ever since then, Harry’s fashion choices have continued to push boundaries and defy social norms. With the release of his second studio album, Fine Line, Harry’s looks blur the lines of masculine and feminine fashion. In the cover art for the album, Styles is wearing billowy high-waisted white pants with suspenders paired with a loose, sheer, neon pink top. The outfit is complete with pink and blue painted nails. The singer has stated that “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 are clothes for women,’ once you remove any barriers, obviously you open up the arena in which you can play. I’ll go into shops sometimes, and I just find myself looking at the women’s clothes thinking they’re amazing.”

Harry Styles on the cover of his 2019 album, Fine Line.
Credit: Tim Walker

In December 2020,  Styles became the first-ever solo male to grace the cover of Vogue Magazine. He is pictured wearing a light blue floor-length gown and skirts. These outfits caused a considerable amount of controversy, with people who believe that men should not dress in this way speaking out and criticizing both Styles and the magazine. 


Candace Owens, an American conservative author, took to Twitter to criticize Harry’s fashion choices. She stated, “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 viewpoint gained support, as many people shared the belief that men should not be able to express themselves through fashion, as certain articles of clothing can be deemed “unmanly”. This ideology relies on the persistence of a strict gender binary, which is defined as men being dominant and women being viewed as weak and submissive.


Fashion choices have no influence over the strength of a nation, and the strength of the nation most definitely does not rely on a strong patriarchy. U.S Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said it best while responding to Owen’s point of view by stating, “Some folks are very sensitive to examining and exploring gender roles in society. Perhaps for some people, it provokes some anger or insecurity around masculinity/femininity/etc. If it does, then maybe that’s part of the point. Sit with that reaction and think about it, examine it, explore it, engage it, and grow with it.”  Declaring that a man should dress a certain way to display their masculinity does nothing but limit creativity and self-expression. 


Harry remained unfazed by the backlash caused by his Vogue cover. He responded with a simple Instagram post of him wearing a frilly light blue suit, eating a banana, and quoted Owen’s comment, captioning the post with, “Bring back manly men”.