Image Credit: Lindsay Garbacik for The Campus Trainer
“Anytime you’re putting barriers up in your life, you are limiting yourself.”
This was the inspiring pull quote from the first Vogue magazine cover to ever feature a solo male act. The star of Vogue’sDecember issueis the one and only, Harry Styles. On the front page, the former One Direction sweetheart struck a pose looking into the horizon. He wore a ruffly, lilac-blue, haute couture ball gown under a black tuxedo jacket. The ensemble was designed by the creative director of Gucci, Alessandro Michele.
Styles, who identifies as a cisgender man, did more than break conventional expectations of gender through high fashion. When the cover was revealed on Nov. 13, he broke the internet too. His feature in Vogue included pictures of him in a plethora of stylish outfits. These included everything from pants to skirts to dresses. In light of the fact that everyone is talking about it, University of Maryland students expressed their thoughts on this groundbreaking moment in fashion history.
Many people said they did not expect the social media controversy that the cover sparked. For instance, conservative political activists such as Candace Owens and Ben Shapiro outspokenly criticized the cover. Shapiro tweeted on Nov. 16, “Anyone who pretends that it is not a referendum on masculinity for men to don floofy dresses is treating you as a full-on idiot.”
Sophomore political science major, Alex Truszowska, disagrees with Shapiro’s statement. She believes that people shouldn’t feel the need to criticize a celebrity featured in a high fashion magazine like Vogue. “Overall I think that the politicization of the whole cover is ridiculous. There’s a whole industry around empowering women to dress as they please, whether it be in pants or a jumpsuit. The fact that people are uncomfortable with a man in a dress just shows how immature and childish they are when it comes to masculinity. Quite frankly, it’s embarrassing,” Truszowska said. “Harry Styles put on a dress - he didn’t commit a crime.”
Male students reflected on the cover as well. Sam Bashiri, a freshman biological sciences major, was not offended by the outfits. “Harry Styles is a singer who also serves as an influencer. By wearing ‘bold’ outfits he is defying the way we see men’s fashion,” Bashiri said.
Yuvraj Singh, a freshman undecided major, did not feel the need to reflect too much on the trending subject. He said, “I’m indifferent to the topic. I think it got blown out of proportion. Anyone should be able to do what they want.”
Students who have been following Styles for years said that the star was already known for wearing what could be considered ‘feminine clothes’. Hence, it was no surprise to see him rocking dresses and skirts in a magazine. “I think he deserves to be on the cover because he really fits the Vogue theme with his different style of music and his iconic fashion. But I don't really get why people were upset over the dress and I also don't get why people were overly excited,” said Ruma Dewal, a freshman international business major. “Seeing him on the cover was a great milestone but this should become more of a normal thing that happens. Talented people belong on Vogue and can wear whatever they want to celebrate.”
The singer’s accomplishment is certainly “breaking barriers” in innovative ways. However, Styles confessed to Vogue journalist Hamish Bowles that he received fashion inspiration from other historic male artists. He said that he has admired David Bowie, Elvis Presley, Prince, Freddie Mercury and Elton John since he was a child.
Marisa Silverman, a freshman history major, noticed the origin of Style’s inspiration. “I don't really know why people are so bent out of shape with this cover, because male artists have dressed ‘femininely’ and worn dresses for a long time, like David Bowie and Prince. I think gendered clothing isn't a real barrier,” she said. “If women can wear suits, why can't men wear dresses?”
Styles’ fans have seen him evolve from a teen in a widely popular band to an iconic solo artist. Freshman criminal justice major, Cristina Urban, stated that Styles is a great role model for the millions of people looking up to him. “His fans have seen him grow from being part of a boy band into being his own person, embracing his individuality,” Urban said. “I love the way he dressed for the cover because it shows his fans that it’s okay to be different and love yourself.”