Updated: Dec 5, 2020
In the history of pop-stardom, personal fashion has always been the key signifier setting one idol apart from another. Harry Styles has embraced this full force throughout his rise to fame and has unintentionally left a myriad of trends in his wake. Following the suit of popular fashion icons such as Elton John, Prince, or David Bowie, Styles’ style (pun definitely intended) is driven by camp elements and bold ensembles that toe the line between casual and absurd. His fashion is more understated than that of artists like Lady Gaga, whose fashion thrives almost exclusively in the absurd, yet it is more experimental than a vast majority of the faces we see in pop culture daily. In order to gain recognition for his fashion, Styles has also had to break out of the boundaries boyband members are traditionally placed into. From 2013 and on, he has presented himself in such a way that it not only inspires his primarily young, female fanbase, but also inspires guys, gals, and non-binary pals his age and beyond, creating trends that quietly sprawl across the globe.
One of the earliest signs of Harry’s influence on fashion trends took place at the height of the hipster revolution in 2012. After the star donned a shirt with the phrase “Hipsta Please” on it, sales for the product surged on the official website and led to an array of knock-offs posted across the internet. The shirt was from the brand London Loves LA which is quite fitting for the star who now bounces between the two cities regularly. This all occurred when I was in middle school and for what it’s worth, I remember seeing a handful of girls wearing the shirt by the end of 2012 and I live in a suburban blip on the map. For a simple graphic tee, this kind of impact is incredible, and was clearly a sign that Harry Styles was destined to be a fashion demigod.
Harry’s personal style has evolved in a fascinating way over the years. In the early days of One Direction, each member was styled according to their respective token personalities. Harry was pushed as the prep school boy that every girl has a fat crush on and hence his wardrobe consisted of school blazers, white tees, skinny jeans, and sneakers. His everyday fashion wasn’t too far off, with beanies taking the place of blazers on most outings. By 2013, he began to break out of the British schoolboy chokehold and experimented with new styles and patterns reminiscent of classic Americana fashion. This change was influenced by his time spent touring the US with the band that year, travelling cross-country in a tour bus, soaking up the southern heat and unabashedly taking style inspiration from the streetwear trends of midwest suburbia. Some refer to this era of his fashion as his “frat boy” era signified by sports team snapbacks, gaping tank tops, and American flag bandanas holding back frizzy curls that were tortured by the summer humidity.
The real MVP of this era was the pair of brown leather boots he began wearing nearly everyday. It’s hard to imagine a time where Harry Styles wasn’t directly associated with these grungy, worn-out boots, but prior to that summer, he really was just Harry Styles in his high-top Chuck Taylors. In a segment for the men’s fashion magazine, Another Man, Styles documented the boots as one of his most prized possessions. He claims he found them at a vintage shop somewhere in America and has only grown to love them more “the shittier and more beaten up they got.” These boots were a definitive clue in figuring out who took style inspiration from Styles at the time as they became an integral part of his public identity.
By the end of the year, Harry’s wander through the realm of grungy chic led him to blossoming love for designer brands such as Burberry and Saint Laurent. Stumbling out of the midst of his effortless American style came a more refined sense of fashion for the fall season, donning a leopard print top and luxurious trench coat to the Burberry show at London Fashion Week. Boots became an essential part of every outfit as the year came to a close and by the end of it all he walked away with a British Fashion Award voted on by the public. He graciously accepted this award in a chic all-black ensemble that’s a far cry from the bold florals he dons at award shows nowadays.
Speaking of bold florals, it may be time to hop forward to the true birth of the kind of fashion Styles is synonymous with today. As his time in the then-foursome drew to a close, he began experimenting even more with his personal style, seemingly rebelling against whatever professional limitations may have held him back prior. A definitive moment for this era was his American Music Award ensemble consisting of a black and white floral suit with flared pants that put his bandmates’ standard black tie suits to shame. This outfit launched Styles into a new realm of confidence and a new realm of fashion notoriety. This is the point at which the industry itself could no longer brush him off as a cookie-cutter boyband member, but instead had to recognize him as a fashion-forward force with the world at his fingertips. This floral suit led to the final suit he wore as an active member of One Direction: a bright red, luxurious floral suit that will forever stand as a testament to the personal growth he saw during those five years of his life.
“I’ll put on something that feels really flamboyant, and I don’t feel crazy wearing it. I think if you get something that you feel amazing in, it’s like a superhero outfit. Clothes are there to have fun with and experiment with and play with.” - Harry Styles, Vogue
With the launch of his acting career and his solo music career in 2017, Styles solidified himself as a powerhouse in all respects. Fashion-wise, his first solo tour represented the efervescent energy that built him a name for himself in the first place. Each night the floral pink curtain dropped to reveal a new bold suit with velvet, sequins, floral patterns, or all of the above. By the time his slightly more expansive 2018 tour came around, the suits had only gotten even more intricate. His stylist, Harry Lambert, carefully chose garments that suited the cities they were performing in. This is how we got Styles in a kilt in Scotland, and a fringed floral suit in Mexico. There was also the addition of his new resident designer, Harris Reed, who was then just an American fashion design student at Central Saint Martins in London. Reed produced intricate garments with a plethora of sequins and ruffles that embodied the kind of chaotic energy Styles showed on stage each night. The garments were also inspired by Reed’s own gender-fluidity, paving a new path for Styles to test the waters with the more feminine side of his personal taste. This kind of partnership with a young designer is exactly what makes Harry such a light in the industry. Though he delves into the realm of the luxurious and well-known, he is not afraid to take a chance on new faces and give them the platforms they need to grow in their careers. Since their initial partnership with Styles, Harris Reed has become one of the faces of Alessandro Michele’s Gucci, following suit of Styles who also is close friends with the designer and has also taken part in several campaigns for the brand.
Styles was not only breaking boundaries on stage. His newfound love for louder, bolder fashion granted him new opportunities such as co-hosting the Met Gala in 2019. By this time, he had solidified a fluid, bold style for himself that fit perfectly with the “Notes on Camp” theme of the year. Alongside the legendary Lady Gaga, Alessandro Michele, and tennis powerhouse Serena Williams, Harry graced the steps of the Met in a chic Gucci ensemble with a sheer ruffled blouse, ridiculously high waisted pants and a single pearl earring. To be a co-chair of the fashion industry's largest annual event at just 25 is an incredible feat and speaks volumes for the future impact he could have.
At the root of all of these luxurious event outfits comes his everyday fashion which is really what I came here to talk about to begin with. Harry seems to have found himself in his fashion over the past year, considering his style has stayed relatively constant throughout this time. Some recurring elements of his wardrobe are his signature pearl necklace, patterned sweater vests, flare pants, and beat up Vans that have probably travelled more already than most of us will in our lifetimes. It seems that all these years of vastly different fashions have culminated in a sense of style that embraces pieces of each era. He no longer exclusively relies on designer blouses and luxurious coats, or beat-up boots and ripped skinny jeans. Instead, he has a mishmash of colors, patterns, and price points, with some pieces coming from his cherished Gucci and others coming from local queer brand such as 3rd Class Clothing that created the graphic tee he wore on New Years Eve, boasting “But Daddy I Love Him” across the torso. Harry Styles of 2012 or even 2015 may not have had the confidence to don a shirt like that in public, but now with the effort he has put into bringing awareness to his general fluidity in all respects, garments like this are something his followers have come to expect.
“There’s so much joy to be had in playing with clothes. I’ve never thought too much about what it means—it just becomes this extended part of creating something." - Harry Styles, Vogue
With all of these niche attributes of his personal style that make his fashion so noteworthy, it becomes increasingly easy to see the ways in which other people’s styles have been influenced by the star. This year alone we have seen the crocheted JW Anderson cardigan he wore on the TODAY Show take over the world through the growth of fanmade versions of the garment. Even the brand itself released the patterns for the garment, encouraging Harry’s fans to create their own to showcase their love for the garment as well as Harry himself. As soon as Harry wears something, it is launched into the stratosphere where it’s sufficiently judged by his fierce fanbase, and more often than not these pieces are approved with vigor. Pearl necklaces, crocheted cardigans, Magda Archer sweaters, rose rings, Outdoor Voices totes, and beaded necklaces are just a handful of the items Styles’s fanbase have scoured to find for themselves after seeing them wrapped lovingly around their favorite star. This kind of engagement directly affects the success of trends and key garments, giving ginormous boosts of popularity to items here and there like a twisted form of Russian Roulette.
Overall, Harry Styles is a powerful force in many industries whose style is likely to evolve and become more influential as time goes on. So long as he continues to embrace gender nonconformity in his fashion, he will continue to stand at the forefront of trends and appeal to his diverse fanbase that then holds the key to real success for many brands and designers, both big and small. In the days before this article was published, he actually managed to land a cover for Vogue, making him the first solo male to be featured on the cover in the magazine’s 100 year history. The editorial shoot for the interview featured custom made gowns by Alessandro Michele and garments by Harris Reed, both of which were mentioned previously as trusted fashion companions of Styles. Clearly he is on to great heights and is keeping around an entourage of trusted individuals to help him along the way. His fashion is unique in its timelessness, following both modern and vintage trends while maintaining a sense of self in the items that appear the most. And with that I say cheers to a decade of Styles and a decade of his styles. He’s sure to have plenty more up his sleeve, or at least in the front pocket of his leather Gucci crossbody.
Article illustration by Beyza Çelikmenfirstname.lastname@example.org (IG)