Harry Styles: From One Direction to a modern rock star

Styles is helping to break gender barriers with his fashion

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By Nicole Bates, Collegian Staff

Growing up during One Direction’s rise to fame, I’ll always have fond memories of the boy band. These five British boys were a fourteen-year-old girl’s dream: they stole girls’ hearts everywhere with their preppy style and hits like “What Makes You Beautiful” and “One Thing.” I grew up and matured alongside the band members, so it was definitely a sad day when they broke up in 2014; it marked the end of an era. As the boys evolved in their solo careers, I evolved too, and I have since developed a sharper sense of what I like in a musician. As my love for the boy band became nostalgic, I didn’t follow many of the band members in their solo careers, but Harry Styles was the exception.

Though all the members of the band – Liam Payne, Zayn Malik, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson and Niall Horan – have released solo music, it seems Harry Styles’ individual flare has made the biggest impact on the world of popular music and fashion. During his time in the band, he was always a fan favorite. However, he was confined by the band’s aesthetic of pop music and a preppy, masculine attire. We didn’t get to see much of what made Styles, Styles, because he had to fit into the band’s image. Now that Styles is solo, however, he has blossomed into a modern rock star, with a style and sound reminiscent of rock and roll in the 60s and 70s.

With the music on his 2017 debut solo self-titled album, Harry Styles has become an old-school rocker in the modern day. He completely breaks away from his days as a cute boy band pop star and has cultivated a new image for himself.

And not only is he redefining himself through his music, but also in his fashion. If you look at how his Styles has changed since leaving One Direction, he has metamorphosed into a contemporary reincarnation of rock legend Mick Jagger. With floral suits, bellbottoms, bows and blouses, he has embraced the glamour of the androgynous rock star.

Recently, he has been working with British stylist, Harry Lambert, who reached out to gender-fluid designer Harris Reed after discovering his work on Instagram. In an article from GQ, Reed recalls Lambert telling him to, “think Mick Jagger, think Jimi Hendrix. I was even thinking a little bit of Queen.” According to Kate Halliwell, a writer at The Ringer who has followed Styles fashion evolution, “he’s got his nails painted, he’ll wear a women’s sweater with shorts. He plays with what you would think of as women’s–he’s very unencumbered by what men and male pop stars are expected to wear.”

In the “#MeToo” era, masculinity is being redefined and men’s fashion has a lot to do with it, with figures like Harry Styles leading the way. With gender-fluid fashion on the rise, fixed barriers between genders are being eroded, allowing people to live more honestly, free of the limits that gender stereotypes traditionally placed on people.

In an interview Harry Styles did with Timothee Chalamet for Vice, the two discuss their views towards masculinity. Chalamet, who recently skyrocketed to fame with his leading role in Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me By Your Name”, is also known to break gender stereotypes in his performances and in his fashion choices.

In “Call Me By Your Name”, Chalamet plays a seventeen-year-old boy who falls in love with a graduate student hired by his father to work at their family’s summer home in Italy. In this film, Chalamet delivers a stunning performance, where audiences see that he is not afraid to be vulnerable. Like Styles, he is known for being in touch with his feminine side in the way he presents himself to the world. Notably, he wore a hand-painted floral suit to the premiere of his film “Beautiful Boy”, reminiscent of Styles’ style.

Chalamet shares his idea of a “new masculinity, one that’s sensitive, thoughtful, creative and unafraid to be who they are.” Following this, Styles shares that growing up with his mother and sister he always had a different perspective on masculinity: “I think there’s so much masculinity in being vulnerable and allowing yourself to be feminine.”

Men like Styles and Chalamet are drawing attention to men’s fashion in a way that it hasn’t been looked at in a long time. They are making choices that make menswear worth talking about. Rather than sticking to the classic, “manly” black tuxedo, they are branching out to see how they can play with femininity in their fashion choices. It is an exciting time for menswear because there is so much more one can do with fashion when they aren’t limited to gender stereotypes. The fashion world seems to be approaching an age where gender-associated clothing pieces no longer what dictates fashion, but creativity and artistry do.

Alongside Chalamet and Styles, men like Jaden Smith, Young Thug, Luka Sabbat, A$AP Rocky and more are working to bring gender-fluid fashion to the forefront. Jaden Smith was a part of the spring 2016 Louis Vuitton womenswear campaign, and he continues to break rules with his style choices. Sabbat has been making waves with his fashion, both high-fashion and street wear. A$AP Rocky is known for embellishing his looks and creating his own distinct style. Young Thug appeared on the cover of his mixtape “No, My Name is Jeffery” in a dress saying: “In my world, of course, it don’t matter. You could be a gangster with a dress. Or you could be a gangster with baggy pants.”

As we enter a future where clothes are no longer “male” or “female,” we are entering an exciting time for fashion where we can see new, creative looks that do not follow traditional gender roles.

Nicole Bates can be reached at [email protected]