Candidness Never Goes Out of Style

The Online Debate Over Harry Styles vs Candace Owens


Harry Styles for Vogue Magazine Photo By: Tyler Mitchell

David Bowie. Michael Jackson. Elton John. All notable male figures in the 70’s and 80’s who stood out in large part for their gender-bending fashion. From neon blue eyeshadow and red mohawks to neon glittery blouses, pearl peaked shoulder blazers, and sequined gloves these men changed the game for the 1950 misogynistic, homophobic notion of what masculinity was presumed to be contained as. Now, in 2020, we have a plethora of male artists who are emblematic of gender freedom and expression, including singer Harry Styles. 


In One Direction, Styles along with the rest of the members-Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Zayn Malik, and Louis Tomlinson-were often labeled as “frat boys” for their consistent attire comprised of black and white t-shirts and tank tops paired with skinny jeans. Despite the band having been known for disregarding the conventional band etiquette, their strict and constraining management was later exposed and rumored to not have been supportive of Style’s expressiveness. 


Since parting from his One Direction era, Styles has been extremely open about his ideals, sexuality, and beliefs regarding gender ambiguity. He showed up to the 2017 Met Gala sporting a lacy black sheer top with a big bow at the top and slipped on a chunky pair of men’s heels. At his concerts, he freely sports floral suits and pink dress shirts. 


On November 13, Harry Styles made history as the first solo man featured on the December Issue of Vogue wearing a Gucci jacket over a dress, which put fans into a joyous frenzy online. However, his long overdue accomplishment was quickly undermined when extreme conservative Candace Owens tweeted, “There is no society that can survive without strong men. The East knows this. In the west, the steady feminization of our men at the same time that Marxism is being taught to our children is not a coincidence.”  “It is an outright attack,” continued Owens. “Bring back manly men.”


Many of Styles’ fans and people in the entertainment industry rushed to his defense.


Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Zach Braff said, “Our whole lives boys and men are told we need to be manly.  Life is short. Be whatever you want to be.”


“Lord of the Rings” star Elijah Wood tweeted, “Masculinity alone does not make a man. In fact, it’s got nothing to do with it.” 


When asked for her opinion on Styles’ photo in her Instagram stories, congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote,  “Some people are mad at it [because] some folks are very sensitive to examining and exploring gender roles in society. Perhaps for some people it provokes some anger or insecurity around masculinity/femininity/etc. If it does, then maybe that’s part of the point. Sit with that reaction and think about it, examine it, explore it, engage it, and grow with it,” continued Ocasio-Cortez. “What’s the point of creating things if they don’t make people think? Or feel or reflect? Especially as an artist or creative? Who wants to see the same thing all the time? And never explore their assumptions?”


“Harry Styles is plenty manly, because manly is whatever you want it to be, not what some insecure, toxic, woman-hating, homophobic [idiots] decided it was hundreds of years ago. He’s 104% perfect,” said “The Good Place” star Jameela Jamil. She then tweeted a photo of a 19th century man in an extravagant wig and said, “Also… this was at one time considered very manly. Wigs, make up, tights, frills… maybe this is the comeback of the “manly man.”


Owens responded, “I’m impervious to woke culture. Showing me 50 examples of something won’t make it any less stupid.” 


Styles has always been adamant about emphasizing how clothes do not have a gender. In his interview with Vogue, he said, “When you take away ‘There’s clothes for men and there’s clothes for women,’ once you remove any barriers, obviously you open up the arena in which you can play. … [A]nytime you’re putting barriers up in your own life, you’re just limiting yourself. There’s so much joy to be had in playing with clothes. I’ve never really thought too much about what it means — it just becomes this extended part of creating something.”


In an interview with Timothee Chalamet in November 2018, Styles, who does not label his sexuality, said, “I’ve become a lot more content with who I am. I think there’s so much masculinity in being vulnerable and allowing yourself to be feminine, and I’m very comfortable with that. Today it’s easier to embrace masculinity in so many different things. I definitely find — through music, writing, talking with friends and being open — that some of the times when I feel most confident is when I’m allowing myself to be vulnerable.”


In a GQ article that explored Styles’ fashion evolution, writer Rachel Tashjian wrote that the singer’s “gender ambiguity imparts openness and freedom of identity. Designers who have worked with him, as well as fashion chroniclers, praise his ability to communicate through clothing.”


About two weeks after Owen’s tweet, Styles posted a picture of his cover for Vanity Fair wearing a frilly pantsuit with the sarcastic caption, “Bring back manly men.” 


Owens, who evidently did not comprehend his sarcasm, thanked Styles and replied “I inspire global conversion.”


Owens also described Hollywood as perverse. “Women who objectify themselves by spreading their legs for the world are lauded as courageous,” she wrote. “Men in ball gowns & little girl’s clothing are lauded as icons. Hollywood is no longer about diversity, it’s about perversity. I speak for people who do not worship perversity.”

Regarding his opinion on Owen’s stance, Styles told Vanity Fair, “To not wear [something] because it’s females’ clothing, you shut out a whole world of great clothes. And I think what’s exciting about right now is you can wear what you like. It doesn’t have to be X or Y. Those lines are becoming more and more blurred.”

In an interview with L’Officiel, Styles said, “Many borders are falling – in fashion, but also in music, films and art,” he told the magazine. “I don’t think people are still looking for this gender differentiation. Even if the masculine and feminine exist, their limits are the subject of a game.”

“We no longer need to be this or that. I think now, people are just trying to be good,” Harry continued. “In fashion and other fields, these parameters are no longer as strict as before, and it gives rise to great freedom. It’s stimulating.”


Jessica Wang from Bustle said, “It’s the sign of the times: Free expression, not toxic masculinity, will always be fashionable — and Styles knows just that.”


Marcie Bianco of NBC News said, “People like Owens fear the destruction of boundaries and of borders that maintain the traditional social — gender and racial — hierarchy. These competing worldviews represent two very distinct notions of freedom. But while Styles advocates a type of freedom embodied by creative expression and creative independence, Owens — a conservative who drapes herself in the American flag — espouses a freedom based in constraint and male dominance.”


For someone who claims they value freedom so much, it’s quite ironic that Candace Owens wants to hinder and shame people who want to freely express themselves through their clothes. Harry Styles’ dress is another example of so many influential stars who are helping to break gender stereotypes and boundaries for young children everywhere. It is amazing that kids have someone in the spotlight who helps show that clothes do not determine masculinity, and that they can wear whatever makes them feel comfortable.