The internet was abuzz last week over the star of the latest cover of Vogue’s U.S December issue, who was none other than Harry Styles.
Why were so many taken back by the revolutionary cover? Styles was outfitted by gender fluid designer Harris Reed, and was photographed by Tyler Mitchell while wearing a dress.
Styles became the first solo male to grace the cover of Vogue Magazine, all while posing in a dress -- which wasn’t his first time breaking through the gender norms and stereotypes of how masculinity and femininity are defined.
In 2019, Styles wore a black blouse, heels, painted nails and one pearl earring for the Met Gala. He has always made it clear that he isn’t about labels, and instead, chooses to embrace all parts of himself, his interests, identity and expression.
Earlier this year, Styles was also on the cover of Beauty Papers - a magazine based in London - appearing in fishnets, heel loafers, and wearing lipstick.
While Styles isn’t the first celebrity, or man, to challenge gender stereotypes in this way, he’s become one of the most mainstream figures to do so all while at the height of his career.
However, not everyone was pleased to see Styles on the cover of Vogue or being praised for his clothing choices.
American Conservative Author Candace Owens expressed her distaste on Twitter regarding (toxic) masculinity, and ended her tweet with “bring back manly man.”
Obviously, any man can wear a dress no matter how physically “strong” they are. Even after getting called out from other celebrities, and of course Harry’s fans, Owens refused to apologize for her insensitive comments.
There has always been a strong gender divide in fashion, and Candace Owens is a perfect example of why many men are discouraged from fighting heteronormative stereotypes, patriarchy and toxic masculinity.
She makes it clear as day that men’s fashion is still supposed to be bound to masculine norms --but many disagree, and expressed full support of Styles and Vogue.
On the other hand, Vogue also received backlash from the trans and queer community, but for different reasons.
Not all were hating on Styles’ cover appearance, but the fact that Vogue decided to center a white, cis man rather than a trans individual in this attempt to challenge gender norms, especially since this community is often shunned and targeted for what they wear.
Alok Vaid-Menon, who is a gender non-conforming artist and author, addressed concerns on their Instagram on the mixed feelings since Vogue released the cover:
"Am I happy to see Harry be celebrated for openly flouting gendered fashion norms? Yes. Do trans femmes of color receive praise for doing the same thing every day? No," they wrote. "Do I think this is a sign of progress of society's evolution away from binary gender? Yes. Do I think that white men should be upheld as the face of gender neutral fashion? No."
"Make no mistake: trans femmes of color started this and continue to face the backlash from it," Vaid-Menon continued. "Our aesthetics make it to the mainstream, but not our bodies. We are still dismissed as 'too much' and 'too queer' because we aren't palatable enough to whiteness and heteronormativity."
"Is that Harry's fault? No. It's the fault of systems of transmisogyny and racism."
Menon explains it quite clearly: transgender, queer and non gender-conforming people will always be targeted, and isn’t Styles that everyone is being critical of, it’s Vogue, for not creating better representation and diversity on set and behind the scenes too.
It’s great to see men break barriers and building bridges to tackle toxic masculinity in fashion, but this same energy should also be directed towards the trans, queer and gender non-conforming community, to create a more accepting and loving future for all .