Harry Styles’ Vogue cover defies masculinity in fashion


Mia Tavares

Harry Styles’ cover pose in the lace-trimmed baby blue dress. Styles made history as the first solo male to be featured on the cover of Vogue magazine. Art by Mia Tavares.

Mia Tavares and Jana Dimikj

Singer Harry Styles made history on Nov. 13 by being the first solo male artist to be featured on the cover of Vogue magazine in its 127 years as a publication. Styles appears on the cover in a Gucci lace-trimmed baby blue dress, receiving both praise and criticism for this choice. The dividing factor: the definition of manly men. Some are criticizing Styles, like author, commentator and political activist, Candace Owens, who used Harry Styles’ Vogue cover to call for the return of “manly men.” Others, such as congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, received the cover much more positively, writing on Instagram, “It looks wonderful. The masculine and feminine elements are balanced beautifully.” The general consensus is that Styles has had a revolutionary impact on the fashion industry. However, he is not the first pop culture legend to do so. Here is a list of his  greatest fashion inspirations and their influence on gender-role defying fashion:


1960s—Mick Jagger

Frontman of the notorious rock band The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger has been cited by Styles  as a pioneer for his fashion influence, from colourful suits to tight pants. The Rolling Stones were criticized early on in their career for their abnormally long hair and feminine fashion — both controversial in the ‘60s. Jagger’s image has always been about making a statement and attracting attention, specifically, to create a persona onstage that would be unique and entertaining. “The costume helps you be the performer, but it also helps you keep your feet on the ground when you take it off,” Jagger said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine.


1970s—David Bowie

David Bowie’s legendary career took off with his persona Ziggy Stardust. He would later have many more personas: Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke, etc. While one can look at an outfit and see the inspiration taken from David Bowie, there was nothing quite consistent with his style. He would reinvent his look completely about every two years, releasing a new album, starting a new era. Bowie’s style was avantgarde, androgynous and usually described as strange. There is no doubt that David Bowie was a fashion icon not only for the ‘70s, but of all time. Harry Styles’  inspiration from him is quite prominent, especially in the “Fine Line” album cover, where he’s wearing custom Gucci high-waisted wide cut pants, suspenders and a magenta button-up that unmistakably resembles David Bowie’s influential style.



Prince’s style was nothing short of iconic. He challenged gender norms in fashion with a wardrobe of crop tops, flamboyant collars and puffy sleeves. He could often be seen onstage shirtless, with high-waisted wide pants and tall, heeled boots. His influence on fashion can be seen far and wide: from patterned suits, to high boots and frilled silk blouses. His influence in Styles’ fashion choices is quite prominent. Onstage, during the 2020 Brit Awards, Styles wore a lace one-piece with frilled sleeves and lace gloves, heavily influenced by Prince’s classic fashion choices.


Harry Styles’ Fashion Progression

Harry Styles’ personal fashion style changed drastically with his transition to a solo career. When part of former boy band One Direction his outfits were casual, and in classic early 2010s fashion, slightly mismatched. Throughout his career in One Direction, he would often be seen wearing skinny jeans, a t-shirt and heeled Chelsea boots. 

Later on, he frequently paired a patterned button-up with a scarf or wide-brimmed hat. 


In 2017, with the release of his self-titled debut album, his style quickly became far more unique, characterized by patterned and bright suits and frilly blouses. During this period, he was often seen in Gucci and other designerwear. The ‘70s influence in his style became prominent in 2018, with frilled blouses and neck-ties paired with colourful and patterned suits onstage. The start to his slightly more feminine fashion choices can be traced back to the 2019 Met Gala, where he wore a sheer Gucci ruffled blouse. From this point on, he regularly wore more rings and pearl necklaces and kept his nails painted. Wide high-waisted pants with suspenders showcase his style inspiration from David Bowie. With that, Styles’ November Vogue cover becomes an iconic look and a milestone for defying the borders of femininity and masculinity, by Harry Styles and many before him.