Updated: Dec 4, 2020
The recent social media outrage sees former One Direction member Harry Styles criticised for wearing a dress.
I’m a bit late to this party and a number of people have already come out in support and disapproval of Harry’s fashion choice. I am not here to do either because astoundingly I don’t generally care what other people are wearing. And it’s no surprise that there are people on both sides of this argument and even though I don’t particularly align myself with either opinion it seems as though it’s a conversation that needs to be had. Let me try and give my thoughts on the debacle.
As I have already said, I don’t really concern myself with the fashion choice of others. It’s literally not my business, but the issue with Harry’s Vogue cover is that it is an attempt to redefine masculinity. Whether or not you think the idea of masculinity and femininity are social constructs, to simply disregard these notions in this debate is dishonest. And let me make a point by saying that even if something is “socially constructed” it doesn’t mean it isn’t valid.
On the other hand though this leaves scope for much scrutiny and opposition as sometimes there is no law or biological fact that says that we need to adhere to societal norms. Slight segue but one of my favourite topics of study was the age of post-modernism. It was an era where, particularly in the arts, people were pushing boundaries and challenging traditions. All of a sudden paintings didn’t have to be anatomically correct. And I love the idea that as humans we are capable of questioning the world around us and we are able to look a bit deeper as to why things are the way they are.
Bringing this idea back to the topic at hand, yes dresses are societally accepted as the clothing choice for women so for a man to don a dress surely it must be some kind of statement or as some people have argued, he has psychological issues, which I think is nonsense. Did you see the story the other week about a guy who goes to work in skirts? I mean I haven’t run any tests myself so can’t say with 100% certainty that men who wear dresses don’t have some sort of mental disorder. I can argue however that I don’t believe that one constitutes the other.
When you think about clothes and their primary function, as human beings it’s to keep us warm and in society it’s to prevent us from walking round naked as that is a crime in most places. But have you ever thought why dresses have to be “feminine” and trousers “masculine”. I mean to be honest women can get away with wearing traditionally “masculine” clothes more than men with “feminine” attire so maybe it’s time we evened the playing field. And bringing it back to this idea of pushing boundaries I can applaud Harry for that. Anything that arouses debate and discussion is only positive in my book and if there is one boy out there that now feels more empowered to wear a dress then great.
The notion that this is an attack on masculinity I feel is misplaced. I believe there are genuine ideas out there that do seek to diminish and demonize masculine traits but I really don’t think wearing a dress is one of them. Because if you think that a man wearing a dress makes men weak, then what are you saying about women? Can’t a strong woman wear a dress. I guess a huge percentage of us do wear the clothes we do to follow some sort of societal norm but there is nothing to say that people can’t break this when they want to. Especially if it makes them feel better. A man going about his business wearing a dress has literally 0 impact on anyone else. If it does, please let me know. This is why I think the outrage is so misplaced.
And to attribute Harry Styles wearing a dress to your overarching argument that masculinity is being eradicated is heavily flawed. Instead I see it as simply a statement on fashion, why can’t a man wear a dress and still be a man? We saw ideas of this a few years ago where department stores began to rethink gendering clothing departments. What if later down the line all clothes became genderless? There are still many identifying factors out there that can fit into your perception of “masculine” and “feminine”, clothes really doesn’t have to be one of them.
Having said all this though, I don’t believe that people who did criticise or have concerns have bad intentions at all. When you do anything that goes against the norm there are always going to be people who oppose it. It doesn’t make them bad people or bigots and I think it’s quite sad when I see people who support Harry automatically vilify people who don’t. More people need to understand that just because you perceive your ideas and outlook to be righteous doesn’t give you the authority to take the moral high ground over other people. It’s a very narrow minded approach to take and actually quite narcissistic in my opinion. You don’t need to tear people down to lift others up.
To wrap up though, for me, if Harry wants to wear a dress then let my man wear a dress. I don’t think you’re going to see a bunch of men tomorrow rocking Dorothy Perkins’ latest collection. For the most part, what people decide to cover their bodies with is none of your business and sometimes it can really just be as simple as someone deciding a dress is more comfortable than jeans. But if I were to give Harry any criticism, I think the dress is quite hideous to be honest.