The first thing that happens when you are born is being assigned a “gender”. If you are born a male, the societal expectation is you will grow up to be a “masculine man” and vice versa for females. Yet for some people, it is not this simple because that is not how they wish to identify.

Harry Styles is a well-known singer who often likes to wear “women’s clothing”. Last December Harry Styles was pictured on the cover of Vogue magazine wearing a Gucci jacket and dress. Criticizing him, Candice Owens tweeted, “Bring back manly men” and Ben Shapiro responded to her tweet by saying, “This is perfectly obvious. 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.” Plenty of women dress in more masculine clothing, wearing suits and pants yet people like Candace Owens do not ridicule them. 

Harry Styles is not the first celebrity, or person for that matter, that has been ridiculed for publicly wearing “feminine clothing”  People often criticize Styles and other men who wear feminine clothing but these people do not understand gender, a pretty complicated topic. 

The issue comes from believing sex and gender are the same things. Yet they are far from it. Sex is what you are biologically assigned at birth. Gender is a socially and mentally constructed idea. 

One of the most prominent ways gender is expressed is through clothing and fashion choices. In today’s society, Harry Styles wearing dresses is shocking to many people. People often speculate and make assumptions about his gender identity. They assume that because he dresses like a girl, he must be sexually attracted to boys. This raises another aspect of gender that is important to understand. Gender identity and gender expression are two different things. Gender identity is mentally how you feel about your identity. Gender expression is how you outwardly choose to express gender. 

There is a term called, fabulousness. It is dressing and styling in a way that disrupts gender codes but introduces new identities to society. However, not everyone is able to hold a position in the world where they can freely dress how they wish. A Harvard business review sought to examine the ways men dress to work. Ben Barry interviewed fifty men aged 22 to 78 of all different demographics. He was able to go into their wardrobes and ask them about work choices, memories, feelings, and experiences they associated with specific clothing. He found that while many had clothing they would like the wear to work, dress codes prohibited them from doing so. Instead, the men “saved the sequined tops for nightclub rather than the office”. 

Clothing comes down to gender norms and expectations set in our society that often apply in the workplace.  The stigma is connected to women staying home and men going to work. The suit and tie are associated with “being a man” and providing for the family. 

So why is it so threatening for a man to dress in feminine clothing? The reality is men who are against cross-dressing are scared of not being seen as masculine. This “masculine” identity is so fragile and another man wearing a dress proves that it is a standard made up by society. It seems that a true “manly man” is someone so secure with themselves they are not afraid to challenge gender norms and express themselves as they want. 

Embracing in clothing is an important part of realizing gender is not binary but it is fluid. Breaking gender stereotypes is crucial to understanding everyone is different and should be able to express themselves safely.

feature image link: https://www.vogue.com/article/harry-styles-cover-december-2020

One thought on “Fabulousness

  1. I loved this read! I think it was crazy that Harry Styles got so much hate for wearing a dress. Why doesn’t everyone just stop worrying about others and focus on themselves.


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