“He makes niceness chic,” Williams said, choosing an “un-edgy, totally earnest mantra” despite his rock star bonafides. “Harry Styles is the heart-eyes emoji, sprung to life.” (At first, Williams says she felt peculiar fangirling a former boy-bander as a 40-something Black mom. “I wondered if I was having a midlife crisis,” she told me, “but then, I was introduced to actress/producer/novelist Robinne Lee, whose brilliant novel The Idea of You, was inspired by him, and who is, herself, a 40-something Black mom, and I was like, ‘Yes, I’ve found my people.'”)
Style’s beautiful soul is just one reason why I stand by my own budding fandom, even as I’m mocked by certain family members and even my six-year-old daughter for requesting t-shirts from his official store as my only Christmas gift, or vaulting myself down the Harry YouTube rabbit hole (please seek out his duet with Lizzo on “Juice” at her Miami show at the Fillmore back in January, another world ago). But it’s not just that he reads Alain de Botton, writes his own music, wears insane sweaters and has a cosmic connection with Stevie Nicks. Styles also strikes me as a man uniquely suited to the moment.
In an era of grotesque, Trump-fueled toxic masculinity, the sexiest thing about Styles is that he’s comfortable in his femininity. What began with his sheer blouse and single drop-earring at the 2019 Met Gala flourished in 2020 with a spate of traditionally femme fashion, including fishnets, a signature pearl necklace and a Gucci dress, as the first male to ever appear on the cover of Vogue.
Tyler Mitchell’s Vogue shoot “felt significant because it’s still so rare to see male celebrities challenge conventional ideals of masculinity,” Liz Plank, author of For the Love of Men, told Vogue. “We still live in a culture that encourages us to protect girls from gendered expectations and stereotypes, but that gets very uncomfortable when we suggest doing the same for boys.”
The way Styles dresses, the fact that he paints his nails and wears stacked heels beneath his sailor pants, continually prompts speculation about sexuality, and I can’t help but notice that this doesn’t trigger him, or elicit passionate defenses or assertions that he is not gay. When The Guardian asked if he’d ever been asked if he is bisexual, Styles replied, “It’s just: who cares?” He denies he’s “sprinkling in nuggets of sexual ambiguity to try and be more interesting,” as he puts it. “I want things to look a certain way. Not because it makes me look gay, or it makes me look straight, or it makes me look bisexual, but because I think it looks cool… I just think sexuality’s something that’s fun.”