Harry Styles has been shattering gender norms, one pearl necklace at a time, for years. The 27-year-old British solo artist has long left behind those early One Direction days of t-shirts and jeans in favour of bejeweled fingers, dresses and Mary Janes – and we’re totally here for it.
Not only does Styles write chart-topping bangers, but he’s repeatedly pushed back at toxic masculinity in his steady rise to the upper echelon of award-winning entertainers. He’s definitely not the first (or last) to do it, but his unique brand of androgyny is a breath of fresh air – it’s authentic and 100 per cent unapologetic. His gestures, whether small (wearing a pearl necklace on the red carpet) or hugely viral (that Vogue cover), have been in direct defiance of the gender norms far too many people still cling to. Think of it as his way of giving a (perfectly manicured) middle finger to toxic masculinity.
In tribute to his flair for fashion, we revisit some of the best gender-bending looks from a true trendsetter.
An elegant handbag
Harry Styles shut down the red carpet at TIFF with his bright green Gucci outfit. But it wasn’t just the colour of the ensemble that caught people’s attention – the My Policeman star opted for a green purse to complete his outfit, and we absolutely loved it.
Vogue 2020 cover
It was the magazine cover seen (and debated) around the world. In December 2020, Styles made history as the only solo male to ever grace the cover of Vogue – but it was what he was wearing that garnered the most attention. Ever the envelope pusher, Styles embraced the opportunity, donning a dress in every single photo of the feature spread. It set off a series of debates over masculinity, culminating in a bizarre liberal vs. conservative argument that pit two conflicting ideas of gender norms against one another. Even Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez weighed in on the debate. In short: the Vogue issue, flowing Gucci gown and all, was a smashing success. Haters can hate, but it doesn’t change the fact that Styles’ cover was a game-changer.
2019 Met Gala
Although he’d already started playing around with fashion fluidity by this point, his red carpet arrival at the 2019 Met Gala was the precise moment the former One Direction star went from stylish singer to fashion icon. In a black ruffled outfit crafted by Gucci’s Alessandro Michele, Styles freed the nipple and officially announced himself as a style icon to watch. From the billowy trousers and sheer ruffled shirt to the fistful of rings and pearl drop earring, it’s an entire aesthetic that we’ll be talking about for years to come.
The SNL tutu
In the Before Times (i.e. November 2019), Styles did double duty as host and musical guest for a taping of Saturday Night Live. But it was the promotional ads that grabbed the most attention, thanks to the bubble gum pink tutu and leotard Styles wore to generate buzz around the episode. Contrary to some naysayers, this wasn’t an example of performative femininity – it was Styles doing what he does best: being his flamboyant self. It was tutu good, if you ask us.
Brit Awards 2020
Last year, Styles gave a show-stopping performance of the track “Falling” from his Fine Line album at the Brit Awards, and he did it in a head-to-toe white lace Gucci bodysuit – complete with matching gloves, ruffled sleeves and that ubiquitous pearl necklace. It also happened to be the moment when the entire world collectively realized the man could literally wear anything and it would look amazing on him.
Earlier, at the Brit Awards…
That same night, Styles made a case for men’s Mary Janes when he arrived on the Brit Awards red carpet wearing black buckled shoes you’d expect to see on Princess Charlotte. He wore them with a tailored burgundy suit, an eggplant sweater and a pearl necklace. No doubt Styles took his cues from friend and fashion designer Alessandro Michele, who paired the historically feminine shoe with trousers during a men’s fall fashion show in Milan that same year.
Beauty Papers magazine shoot
This magazine spread made waves online thanks to Styles’ cheeky play on masculinity/femininity. Considering that the British-based Beauty Papers strives to explore beauty standards, we’d say nabbing Styles as a subject for their issue was an example of perfect symmetry. Wearing little else besides fishnet stockings and loafers, everything about Styles in this photo shoot screams gender-bending rock god. Bowie would be proud.
All those pearls
It’s at the point where Harry Styles and pearls go hand-in-hand. It’s rare nowadays to spot the singer without a string of pearls around his neck – which isn’t surprising considering the “granny” accessory was one of the singer’s earliest examples of pushing back against gender norms. We’re curious, though: is it the same pearl necklace every time? Or are there dozens that he cycles through? Enquiring minds want to know.
That “Golden” music video
There’s no denying that Styles’ fashion choices often conjure images of E.M. Forster novels or Brideshead Revisited. Which is why his collab with designer Steven Stokey-Daley felt like such a natural fit. Stokey-Daley has a knack for crafting billowy linen shirts, floral high-waisted trousers and crocheted boating hats – all of which fall right into Styles’ book of fashion must-haves. From prep to pearls, Styles has consistently moved gender-fluid fashion into the mainstream and his video for his single “Golden” was no exception.
Fine Line album promo
Prior to the release of his Grammy-nominated album Fine Line, Styles did an extensive photo spread with Britain’s The Guardian. The shoot, which featured colour images of Styles in ruffled shirts and nail polish, also included stark black-and-white photos of the barefoot pop star in an ankle-length dress and ruffled shirt. Unless you were living under a rock, chances are you came across these photos back in 2019. It memorably marked one of the first times people outside of his rabid fanbase sat up and took notice of his aesthetic.
Nail polish and rings
We love a man with bejewelled hands, a fashion statement Styles unapologetically indulges in. From his multi-coloured nail polish to chunky rings on each fingers, his penchant for jewellery harkens back to the early days of Steven Tyler and Keith Richards and we’re 100 per cent here for it. After all, he needs those perfectly manicured nails for when he gives the finger to toxic masculinity.
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Fine Line photo shoot
We adore a theatrical genderless approach to fashion, and it’s an aesthetic Styles has in abundance. This shirtless photo shoot for his 2019 album Fine Line included a tight pink leotard and white tights with rhinestones on the feet. It’s artsy, it’s fashion and it’s 100 per cent Harry Styles.