Harry Styles has been breaking hearts since his debut on the X-Factor in 2010. He is not, however, breaking glass ceilings of gendered fashion as recently suggested by Caitlin Moran. His appearance on the cover of Vogue, December 2020, in a frock, was indeed something wonderful. It just was not an earth-shattering moment of genderless dressing. Quite simply, it has been done before. Now this is not to say that Harry Styles in a dress is not incredibly fanciable—let’s face it he is—but just to pay homage to those whose chiffon covered shoulder he now stands upon.
Moran asks who teenage boys have to look up to when deciding if they can pull off the skirt. She reveals that the reason fashion is still so binary is because of a lack of male role models taking the plunge into genderless, or traditionally, more feminine attire. But to anyone who has been a fan of music and popular culture for the last fifty odd years, this is not the case. From David Beckham wearing a sarong in 1998, to Boy George’s entire wardrobe, fanciable men have been blurring the gender divide of fashion for years.
Moran’s suggestion that Styles is the first to flip the rhetoric that “if women have found power and freedom by taking masculine things, then men can be equally empowered by adopting feminine things,” is a problem. Men and women alike have been taking power from their opposite of the archaic idea of gender for years. Is it considered revolutionary and radical that I prefer to wear dungarees and Dr Martens on a Sunday morning walk with the dog? These items were invented for the working man, and here I am possessing them for my own fashionable intent. Don’t worry, I’ll help sweep up the glass from the ceiling I just smashed.
But here we have those who have actually paved the way for Styles to be the icon he has become.
Singing “I Want to Break Free” while wearing a PVC skirt was clearly about waiting for Harry Styles to break boundaries, and not about struggles of sexuality, and the expectations of servitude from women and rock bands.
David Beckham could probably be crowned the most fanciable footballer of the ‘00s. From his ever changing hair to exotic taste in clothes, he has always been an icon of fashion and fancying.
Boy George is not only an example of a wonderfully whimsical chameleon of fashion who says a swift goodbye to gender stereotypes. But also an icon of the 80s, so much so that a film is in the works about his life. The actor piqued to play George is none other than Harry Styles, could this be because his eclectic fashion sense reminds producers of Boy George? Who knows, but it’s a theory.