Chris Cotonou

Harry Styles and the politics of cross dressing

  • From Spectator Life
Image: Getty

If you are on social media, you have probably scrolled past a hundred photographs of Harry Styles’ Grammys performance last week. It was eccentric, quirky. And Styles donned his much-touted androgynous swagger. 

The media and menswear magazines keep insisting that Styles’ fashion choices are groundbreaking and are setting the tone for a new generation of men. Following the performance, tweets and articles have been shared celebrating Harry’s modish liberation from a sea of monotonous Don Drapers. All because he wore a furry green scarf. 

What Harry is doing, said one commentator for a large men’s magazine, is redefining. Redefine. I hate that word… Once you’ve defined something, hopefully you already got it right. But we continue to redefine (and I’m sure it won’t end there). Many high-profile entertainers, like Jared Leto or Sam Smith, are redefining the man, they say. Redefining stifled male sexuality, and liberating us from the oppression of trousers. 

If we ‘cis’ males don’t help redefine menswear, we are holding up the train; stationed where Steve McQueen, Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Sydney Poitier, and Paul Newman left their three-piece double-breasted suits. 

(Photo: Getty)

Outfits that once enabled men to embrace anonymity are being treated as political statements by the young

People have been experimenting with gendered fashions forever. The difference is, Harry’s doing it in an era of activism; so the connotations are different. It’s no longer just: ‘He likes to dress this way.’ The coverage now adds, ‘… and so should you.’ It’s a rather elitist take, presuming the bloke down the pub won’t wear a skirt because he has controversial politics. 

The truth is the average man thinks very little of fashion. They can’t afford to ‘experiment’ with pearl necklaces or furry scarves, produced by Italian fashion houses for the price of a budget sports car.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in