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23 November 2015updated 26 Jul 2021 10:30am

In a world full of bland suits and identikit haircuts, thank God for Harry Styles

Finally, a mainstream risk-taker in men’s fashion.

By Anna Leszkiewicz

It’s the American Music Awards, a night dedicated to the most popular artists in music, and the red carpet is awash with your traditionally handsome young men. Nick Jonas, Leon Bridges, Justin Bieber, The Weeknd and 5 Seconds of Summer are all in attendance, and cameras flash as fans cheer from the sidelines at their heartthrob of choice. Oh, and everyone looks exactly the same.

Enter Harry Styles: flared, floral and flawless. Harry donned a flared Gucci suit (in what looks to me like white, but several outlets are claiming is pink) covered head to toe in flowers and leaves, with a black shirt, and black necktie with a big petal-y rose. Add his lustrous, flowing locks to the equation and the overall look is unconventional, luxurious and decidedly feminine. Photographs of Styles beside even his own bandmates looked like they were taken in an alternative universe where Marc Bolan had accidentally stumbled accross Take That on the red carpet.

Male fashion at music awards basically subscribes to two tried-and-tested models: the traditional suit, with one key tweak (a button-up with no tie; a black or collarless or rollneck shirt; a single necklace), or the dressed-down rebel who wears jeans because he doesn’t play by your rules, goddamit!!! (feat. a plain or band tee; leather or bomber jacket; ripped blue or black jeans; an abundance of jewellery).

Leon Bridges, Calvin Harris Sam Hunt, and Fall Out Boy at the American Music Awards.
Justin Bieber, Joe Jonas and The Weeknd at the American Music Awards.

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Harry Styles punctures these two acceptable modes of masculinity, a breath of fresh air in a sea of boring male fashion choices. His wardrobe has lately expanded to include luxe blouses, Mary Berry-esque silk bomber jackets, flowing neck ribbons, metallic boots and a wide array of floral prints. Chanelling Mick Jagger and David Bowie (even Boy George has picked up on these references, and said Styles projects an image that is “sexually ambiguous”), over the last five years, Styles has become increasingly adventurous, and less traditionally masculine, in his choices.

Harry Styles may not be the most androgynous or sartorially experimental man in music, but his unquestioned status as a mainstream teen heartthrob makes the deliberate blurring of gender boundaries all the more radical. As Qwear, a magazine that celebrates queer fashion, wrote earlier this month: “a man cannot exist in the absence of masculinity and vice versa… and yet we have Harry Styles.” A boutique Overton window, Styles moves the mainstream of acceptable men’s fashion choices away from the centre, validating other young men and women who dress outside the gender binary. So, whether you love or hate the outrageous floral bell-bottoms, celebrate the fact they were worn at all. And, most of all, in a world full of bland suits and identikit haircuts, thank God for Harry Styles.

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All images: Getty