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Harry Styles’s Curious Style

Singer Harry Styles performs on NBC’s Today show in New York City, February 26, 2020. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Harry Styles has reportedly “made history” by being “the first male to cover Vogue magazine solo.” Styles wears a dress in the cover photo, which initially I thought might be him expressing his inner femininity, or boldly challenging traditional gender norms, but apparently, he just enjoys wearing them. “I’ve never thought too much about what it means — it just becomes this extended part of creating something,” he said. Styles’s stylist, on the other hand, has put a lot of thought into what it means, telling the magazine that the choice was “about taking traditionally feminine elements like the frills, heeled boots, sheer fabric, and the pearl earring, but then rephrasing them as masculine pieces set against the high-waisted tailored trousers and his tattoos.” So, the usual highly fashionable gender-bending, then.

Of course, when deployed in a humorous or self-consciously theatrical way, cross-dressing can indeed be a fun and interesting way of exploring the differences between the sexes. But when used seriously and self-importantly in order to further an ideology that would blur all distinctions between male and female, performance and reality, the effect is not only ugly but boring.


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