What Does Harry Styles Vogue Cover Teach Us About Standards Of Beauty

What we’ve learned so far and what’s yet to come.


It’s 2020 and yet, a man in a dress still can spark controversies. At least among the American Right. Yes, we’re talking about Harry Styles whose ruffled Gucci dress on the Vogue cover rocked the world and, more importantly, Twitter. 

Candace Owens, a conservative commentator and activist, currently promoting her new book, cried to ‘bring back manly men.’ Ben Shapiro, another right-wing author, joined her and pointed out the dangers of male feminization.

Twitter hit back immediately, including the responses from the director Olivia Wilde, telling Owens ‘You’re pathetic,’ and the actress Jameela Jamil saying that ‘manly is whatever you want it to be.’

Jamil has a good point and the American Right knows about it. Their desperate cry for the return of ‘masculinity’ is not about certain gender roles but about the articulation of division between scary leftist progress and good conservative order. At the end of the day, President Trump, the guardian of traditional values, has probably worn more makeup during COVID than Harry Styles in his entire career.

Tons of celebrities defending Styles’ gender-fluid fashion are right to speak up in this beauty discourse but they’re missing another important point. The white cis man in the dress doesn’t revolutionize the gendered fashion standards as much as a trans woman of color, still to appear on the Vogue cover, would. Until Lizzo’s recent feature, Vogue has never included 'a big Black woman' on its front, so the photoshoot with Styles in a dress, valid and beautiful, is nevertheless far from radical or brave. 

While his version of masculinity is setting an important example for future generations, we can’t forget that he’s coming from an easier and more privileged place to promote androgynous fashion. Meanwhile, violence towards Black trans people occurs every day, that’s why Vogue has more steps to take if it really wants to set up new standards. 

Twitter is full of examples of cis men of color, challenging the masculine standards of beauty and they deserve praise as much as Harry Styles does. In the world of Asap Rocky’s babushka look, Kid Cudi, Lil Uzi, Lil Nas, Miss J Alexander, and, of course, the original Lenny Kravitz and Prince, Harry Styles is not the only gender-fluid fashion icon. That's why, this discussion is no longer about him but about what comes next.