Harry Styles is a fashion icon of our generation

Written By Maegan Fewell, Staff Writer

“Dressing up, making music, living in the moment: This is what matters to Harry Styles. Boundaries and labels? Not so much.” (Quote from Vogue’s article of Harry Styles, December 2020.)

Many of us remember Harry Styles from his days as a member of the famous boy band, One Direction. Beginning his celebrity life as a sweet 16-year-old heartthrob, Styles has undoubtedly grown into his role as an entertainer and performer over the years. What started out as simple outfits of plaid shirts and ordinary blue jeans have turned into eccentric, put-together outfits, with detailed thought behind each piece of clothing. His maturity, both emotionally and musically, showcases itself in his attire.

How did this precious boy band star many of us grew up with turn into one of the biggest fashion icons of this century? We can compare his fashion influence to celebrities such as ABBA, Elton John, Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna, known from our parents’ generation. Perhaps Styles used these icons to inspire his attire, or maybe he thought it all up on his own. Either way, he has built an entire fashion world unique to him just a few years into his solo career.

I asked some of my fellow Styles’ fans what they thought of Harry Styles: “Matching suits, tattoos, hot man, perfect smile, (their quite forward words… not mine!) tan pants with big buttons, the color red, femininity, and kindness.” More well-known looks Styles has coined for himself are feather boas, flared pants, sequins, patchwork style tattoos and jewelry.

His motto, “Treat People with Kindness,” is displayed everywhere. From clothing, tote bags, posters, even to the extent of fans getting a tattoo of the phrase, Styles’ motto, though simple, carries a deep meaning. It relates to his brand and values: equality, kindness for all, individuality and never being afraid to be out there or be yourself. Consequently, this relates to his apparel. He has a desire to break down the barrier between masculinity and femininity.

The way Styles dresses expresses his identity, which breaks away from stereotypical gender norms. He wears feminine colors such as pink, kilts and skirts, lace, patterns and full-length dresses, to name a few. This further inspires fans to do the same thing. It’s almost as if he is saying, “Be whoever you want to be. And don’t worry about what others think.”

I was fortunate enough to attend Styles’ opening concert of his Love on Tour this past Labor Day Weekend. Having purchased tickets almost two years in advance and enduring the cancellation last year for COVID-19, the anticipation to witness him in person was almost painful.

The show was held in Las Vegas, which brought all the more expectations for a sensational outfit. Girls of all ages surrounded me, along with a few supportive but entirely lost boyfriends and dads. Harry appeared out of nowhere, dramatically rising onto the stage. Clad in hot pink, an open vest with hundreds of sequins, matching vogue-worthy flared pants, and white platform boots, he was truly a sight to see. It was a signature Harry look, accompanied by his galactic-themed painted guitar and iconic silver rings and chains.

I was also fortunate enough to witness how much fans embodied Styles’ brand at the concert. Opening night of the tour, devotees were dressed head to toe in Styles’ garb, matching him perfectly. If he had asked them to come up on stage with him, it would have been a bright pink, unconventional, sparkly mess of rock/pop culture. From matching pink pantsuits to complete makeup and hair looks, they perfectly represented Harry Styles himself. (It is interesting to see that while Styles’ attire does not conform to a strong label or gender, most of his fanbase is still women. Some food for thought…) Even so, it shows that he has created a world of his own brand, only a few years into a solo music career. Although I decided to sport an ordinary outfit without much glam and simply enjoy the performance, it was interesting to see other spectators display the urbanity of Styles’ culture.

Yes, some girls are very much prone to obsessing over such a star. I admit, I was a devout One Direction fan in the prime years of the 2010s and had no shame in hanging posters and magazines of the boys all over my childhood bedroom. (Although, I have to say that Zayn Malik was actually my favorite, despite Harry’s rise to solo fame.) Also, at that age, and like most preteen girls, I was more concerned with how gorgeous they were than their individual singing abilities or fashion sense.

Nonetheless, I grew to love Styles’ music and persona as he grew into the solo role himself. He is not just a heartthrob anymore, but a trendsetting fashionista, few of which exist in his career.

Styles’ fan base is primarily young adult women– that is, those of us who have followed him for the last decade or so as we grew out of the preteen phase and into young women. However, some men don’t seem to be hopping on the bandwagon. I had a guy that looked about 20 years old pass me in the mile-long line to enter the concert shouting for everyone to hear: “Lil Jon is better.” I’m not sure if that is the most accurate rapper to use for comparison, but so be it. Of course, Styles’ charm, famed dimpled smile and looks do benefit his music and brand. But for most fans, we are also in it for the earnest lyrics and commitment to his art form. I’m sure there is a component of emotional attachment since most of us grew up having Harry Styles in our lives somehow. He makes up many fond childhood memories I have, which evidently creates some bias. However, it is not about whether someone likes Harry Styles or not. The argument is simply that he has a significant fashion influence on the modern generation.

Styles has had his fair share of backlash regarding his “style,” but it doesn’t seem to deter him from continuing. There is no doubt that he has built a signature trademark for himself. But I am almost certain that if he decided to switch up his unique, standard attire to something completely opposite, devoted fans would follow his every move. Thankfully, his fashion influence, for now, is a good one and presents a healthy message to people of any gender and identity. I am all for the Harry Styles fashion bandwagon and foresee him thriving and growing into the already influential fashion world he has created for himself.