Photo courtesy of billboard.com
A common theme in 2020 was conflict — from how to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic to the U.S. Presidential election.
To fit the occasion, there was one more event that made people pick a side — singer Harry Styles wearing a dress.
The former One Direction member has gained immense independent recognition with the success of his album, “Fine Line,” released late 2019. As a solo artist, Styles has expressed his unique sense of style, incorporating bright colors in his outfits, wearing floral patterned suits, and painting his fingernails. He began partnering with Gucci in 2015, appearing at the Met Gala in 2019. In December of 2020, he became the first male on the front cover on “Vogue,” infamously wearing a laced, trimmed dress designed by Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele.
This edition of Vogue raised controversy among many, firing a discussion about what is considered “masculine.” Political commentator Candace Owens called out Styles on Twitter, claiming that society needs to “bring back manly men.” Ben Shapiro also tweeted: “Anyone who pretends that it is not a referendum on masculinity for men to don floofy dresses is treating you as a full-on idiot.”
Styles responded to his critics in an interview with Variety.
“To not wear [something] because it’s females’ clothing, you shut out a whole world of great clothes,” Styles said. “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.”
Although the chatter has died down since December, the argument shows the relevance of toxic masculinity in today’s society.
Toxic masculinity refers to the cultural pressures for men to conform into societal norms— where “manliness” is perceived as being dominant and aggressive. As shown by the backlash Styles received, society deems men to hold this standard with an unsaid “or else,” thus arising the issue of toxic masculinity.
The concept is oppressive to not only men, but to women as well. Due to toxic masculinity, femininity is seen as being delicate and gentle, pushing the agenda that women are not meant to be strong or act bold. Not only are these labels exclusive and somewhat oppressive, they also are used on inanimate objects, including clothing. Clothing is suddenly seen to have gender roles.
Personally, it does not make sense to have clothes signify a deeper meaning. Clothes are, quite literally, pieces of fabric, and it seems slightly odd that a longer piece of fabric would cause an uproar when a man decides to wear such a piece. Gender roles should not exist at all, especially in clothing.
As fashion evolves, the barrier between what men and women can wear has whittled down into a thin line. Women are styling themselves more and more in suits, men have recently been wearing skirts through trends on TikTok, painting their nails black as well to mimic Styles and other male celebrities.
All in all, at this day and age, we as a society should be focusing on the bigger issues that are occurring instead of creating controversy over the clothing choice of a successful artist. Truly, there should not be this much anger when a man decides to wear a dress.