Respect the Dress: Manly Men Can Wear Whatever


Mindy Luo

Bring Back Manly Men!

When I woke up on November 13, I was greeted on Instagram by a picture posted by widely popular British singer Harry Styles. The snapshot of Styles posing in a Gucci ball gown was captioned with Styles’ announcement that he would be on the cover of the illustrious Vogue magazine’s December issue.

The announcement quickly garnered a large amount of media attention, as Styles made Vogue history by being the 1st man to ever grace the cover of the magazine alone. The fact that he is simply Harry Styles only added to the media frenzy, given his millions of supporters worldwide.

As a fan of his, I was super excited about the idea of Styles posing on the cover of Vogue, considering that there would be a plethora of imaginative photos of the star and a lengthy interview.

Like many others, I didn’t think much of the fact that Styles was wearing a dress and surprised, to say the least, about the mini media meltdown felt by various public figures about the situation.

“There is no society that can survive without strong men…Bring back manly men,” said conservative right-wing pundit Candice Owens about the photoshoot a few days after it was released. Owens quote is her reaction to Styles being pictured wearing a dress in some of the photos, something that she vehemently expressed that she did not feel was “masculine nor attractive” enough for a man to wear. Owens was not alone in regards to this sentiment; social media platforms everywhere exploded with hateful remarks about men who wear dresses with Styles supporters rallying in the comments.

I didn’t find Styles in a dress to be “weird” or “wrong.” I just thought that it was a nice photo and a cool outfit. The fact that he was wearing a dress to me, conveyed a step in the direction to normalize men wearing traditionally feminine clothing.

Sophomore Ali Fiorindo said, “I really liked Harry’s Vogue cover. He is able to express himself through clothes which I think is a huge part of fashion in general.”

The conversation has grown to encompass less about Styles’ cover to become about what social normalities people perceive to be “masculine.” This debate now has media outlets, politicians, and the Campolindo student body alike, engaged.

The Good Place actress Jameela Jamil wrote on Twitter, “Harry Styles is plenty manly… Because manly is whatever you want it to be. ”

Actor Zack Braff also came to Styles’ defense. “Our whole lives men are told we need to be manly. Life is short. Be whatever the hell you want to be,” said Braff on Twitter.

However, conservative figure Ben Shapiro Tweeted, “Pretending that men dressing like women does not feminize men is ridiculous… Men wearing dresses undermines masculinity in general.”

I find this ludicrous because the concepts of masculinity and femininity were terms created decades ago to put people in neat little boxes that no one actually fits. Redefining what it means to be “masculine” or “feminine” is important and necessary, but the efforts to truly change these meanings are hampered by the hurtful and ignorant comments of Shapiro, Owens, and others who feel similarly.

Clothes are meant to be fun forms of expression, and gender should not play a role in what people are supposedly “expected” to wear, or whether or not someone is perceived as masculine or feminine.

Bottom line is that people can wear whatever they want; it is up to them to express themselves in whatever ways they want.

Senior Mackenzie Bunzle-Hardie said, “To me, being a man means being kind, considerate, and strong…How does a piece of fabric have anything to do with that?”

“There is not a right or a wrong way to be a man,” added sophomore Diego Davila Gil.“Let people do what they want with their bodies and mind your own business.”

The sooner we as a society normalize the fact that people can express themselves in whatever way they choose, the better and more comfortable people will be in their own skin.

Styles is not the 1st nor the last person to wear clothes that are different and that pressure society to think and grow; I love Harry, but we should not simply put him on such a high pedestal for doing so.

For example, actor Billy Porter is known for wearing dresses on red carpets and celebrity events, singer Dominic Harrison (Yungblud) loves to express himself through more “feminine clothing,” actor Zendaya loves to wear suits and ties on red carpets, and singer Billie Eilish wears her signature baggier shorts and t-shirts which have been considered to be more “masculine ” by the media. There are many more people beyond these mentioned that play with fashion and break societal constructs of gender standards.

Hopefully, the beginning of this conversation about masculinity and self-expression will continue, in hopes of helping everyone feel secure to dress however they want, whether it’s men in skirts or women in suits and ties. My hope is that the next time a man is featured in a dress in a major fashion publication, maybe people will not even blink an eye.

“Anytime you’re putting barriers up in your life, you’re limiting yourself,” said Styles in Vogue. “Clothes are there to have fun with.”