By Maile Winterbottom (VI)

When Vogue announced that its new issue would feature Harry Styles, the general reaction was ecstatic. Styles would be the first man to be on the cover of Vogue individually—a monumental moment for gender equality in the industry. Over the course of his career, Styles has been known to dress in a way that disregards conventional gender roles. Last year, he rocked a tutu and tights for a shoot promoting his appearance on Saturday Night Live. For his interview on the Howard Stern Show, he accessorized his outfit with a delicate pearl necklace over a lace collar. Looks like these have proven time and again that Styles is unafraid to break gender norms in fashion—and look badass doing it. 

It was not a surprise, then, that Styles’ shoot with Vogue featured him wearing a number of more “feminine” outfits. The cover shows him wearing a grand blue dress with ruffles coming down it and a blazer overtop. In another look, he wore a sweater vest with a checkered shirt and chained belt. His fan base was overjoyed to see Styles in these barrier-breaking looks; but to others, including author Candace Owens, these outfits infringed much on traditional gender norms. On November 14th, Owens started an uproar when she replied to Vogue’s tweet announcing the November issue that featured Styles; she replied with the bold statement that “there is no society that can survive without strong me . . . Bring manly men back.” Her tweet condemned Styles for wearing more feminine outfits by implying that he was not ”manly” enough. Owens’ claim proves how many of our society’s gender roles are strongly enforced through fashion. These certain standards for what is expected to be worn by women and men—and how they differ—are just one of the many toxic norms that our society accepts. The general public, especially Styles’ fan base, was not happy with Owens’ tweet; chaos ensued on all social media platforms. Numerous people defended Styles, calling him even more “manly” for having the courage to break the status quo through his outfits. On December 2nd, two weeks after Owens’ tweet, Styles seemingly ended the controversy by posting an Instagram photo with the following caption: “Bring manly men back.” In the photo, he is wearing a powder blue suit with a chiffon undershirt and is taking a bite out of a banana. This post shows Styles’ confidence in less conventional attire; he knows that he is “manly” no matter how he chooses to dress himself—and so should every young boy seeing that post.