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For someone who has ‘style’ embedded into his name, Harry Styles certainly has a lot to live up to. After five years as a member of boyband One Direction, the group’s hiatus provoked not just a schism in the music of Styles, but also in his fashion. Although we started to see glimpses of his stylistic unorthodoxy towards the band’s termination, it was not until the establishment of Styles’ solo career that he came to define his new look – and it was certainly unexpected.

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Gone was the rebellious long hair, as were the skinny jeans and Chelsea boots that had previously been the staples of Styles’ wardrobe, and here to stay was a newfound embrace of androgynous dressing. It was not until the world tour of Styles’ eponymous first album that we saw this fully demonstrated, as he collaborated with stylist Harry Lambert, supported with a Gucci endorsement. Bursting onto stage each night dressed in an unpredictable combination of frills, flares, and sequins, Styles’ outfits became just as much a part of the concert experience as the music. While Gucci remained the dominant label worn on-stage, Styles also took the opportunity to give exposure to up-and-coming labels – namely, Harris Reed, a non-binary, gender-fluid designer who was still a fashion student at the time.

"Ultimately Styles succeeded in his mission to make a statement, not just about the fluidity of the fashion, but about the fun of it."

Reed seems to be a strong advocate for a blouse, as all of the looks they created for Styles include an elaborate shirt that tended to be paired with a 70s-esque flared trouser. The collaboration between Reed and Styles is one that has endured ever since, Reed even creating the key look for the first music video of Styles’ sophomore album ‘Fine Line’. Reed has referred to Styles as “the person who pushes me to be a better artist”, even going so far as to release a stunning piece in their latest collection inspired by him, named “The Harry”. Of course, it’s a blouse.

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As Styles’ solo career has progressed, his fashion has only pushed boundaries increasingly. Promotion for ‘Fine Line’ in December 2019 provided the opportunity to delve deeper into the androgynous side of fashion, with pieces such as a Comme-Des-Garcons dress for a feature in The Guardian, and a tutu to publicise his hosting of Saturday Night Live. While we anticipate ‘Love on Tour’ in 2021 being similarly full of unforgettable styling, there has been some indication as to the direction Styles may be heading in, fashion-wise.

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From the electric pink of the shirt Styles models on the new album’s cover, to the multicoloured vintage outfits that comprise the ‘Watermelon Sugar’ music video’s styling, there is no fear of his dressing retreating into simplicity. If anything, it is gaining prominence: in the music video for ‘Falling’, great cinematographic emphasis is placed on the lilac Gucci blouse that billows up around Styles as he becomes submerged in water.

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While 2020 has been a year of numerous disappointments, it is as if Styles anticipated forthcoming fashion deprivation, attending the Brit Awards in February with three looks worn throughout the night. On the red carpet he chose a custom Gucci suit, complete with broderie anglaise collar, pearl necklace, and Mary-Janes – a certainly unusual, but not wildly unorthodox, choice. For those disappointed in the relative conservatism of this look, an all-lace shirt/trouser/suspender/glove ensemble (also Gucci) worn to perform ‘Falling’ may have passed muster. And if even that failed to be satisfactory, it is hard to imagine anyone being disappointed in the night’s third look. A canary yellow three-piece suit with a chiffon lilac bow at the neck from Marc Jacobs’ SS20 womenswear collection (previously worn by Lady Gaga on the cover of Elle) cannot exactly pass subtly under the radar. While host Jack Whitehall may have joked that it seemed stylist Lambert was under the influence of psychedelic drugs when selecting the look, ultimately Styles succeeded in his mission to make a statement, not just about the fluidity of the fashion, but about the fun of it.

"Bold, flamboyant, and never boring, it encapsulates the androgyny and outlandishness that is reminiscent of stars such as Bowie and Jagger."

This is conclusively what is so iconic about Styles’ fashion. Bold, flamboyant, and never boring, it encapsulates the androgyny and outlandishness that is reminiscent of stars such as Bowie and Jagger. In relation to seminal performers such as these, Styles is early in his career, and there is plenty of time for him to experiment further and continue to push boundaries of fashion and gender. For now, those of us without the budget for Gucci will have to emulate his style by buying a pearl necklace from ASOS (guilty). But it feels as if we are witnessing the development of a new icon for this generation, whose reformative style truly is a sign of the times.