As celebrity after celebrity poured out of their town cars and onto the pink carpet for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Met Gala, there was but one I was waiting for: Harry Styles. The youngest co-chair to be chosen for the annual event, and never one to disappoint when it comes to looking freaking spectacular, he would surely blow us all away.
This year's theme of Camp, perhaps more than any other, demanded that celebrities really show out with their fashion choices. Lady Gaga surprised no one by being an MVP of the night, complete with a 16-minute entrance in a Brandon Maxwell look that involved first a fuschia parachute of a gown, which turned into a black, bulbous gown, which then turned into a pink satin number that she had accessorized with rhinestone sunglasses a 1980s cell phone, and over a million dollars worth of jewels. Janelle Monae’s Christian Siriano look featured a blinking eye over one breast. Billy Porter one-upped his own Oscars ball skirt by the power of six men who carried him into the function, queen-of-Egypt-style (him, in a golden-winged number by The Blonds; his, uh, porters wore nothing but golden pants). Jared Leto (arguably one of the more campy male celebrities of our time) took a cue from the 2018 Gucci runway and carried his own head down the carpet. And then came Harry Styles.
The true winner of the carpet (at least in my heart, as this isn’t an event with actual awards) must be him: an icon who is not afraid of some capital-F fashion. Styles put on a full look for the 2019 Met Gala, and he didn’t come to play.
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Styles stepped out in a custom black Gucci ensemble that let every man know that suits and tuxedos simply weren’t making the cut anymore. The sheer jumpsuit, complete with lace cuffs and a ruffled neckline, that allowed a peekaboo moment for many of his tattoos, melted into beautifully tailored trousers, which tapered delicately atop his heeled Gucci boots. His hands were, as always, decked out in his signature ring collection, but this time his nails were painted black and a pale teal. On his face, a slight application of mustache stubble and a single dangling pearl earring. To call a look “gender-bending” may be passé, but Styles certainly challenged some norms with this ensemble: Mainly, the norm that men on red carpets should look boring AF.
When asked about his outfit and what camp meant to him on the pink carpet, Harry told Vogue, “I mean, I think it’s about enjoyment and about fun; no judgement. And having fun with clothes. I think fashion is supposed to be fun. And I think it’s a good time for that as well — people being who they are.”
Did we mention that this was his first Met Gala? And he bypassed arriving as a guest to head straight to the co-chairs’ table, no doubt because he continually makes bold style choices we should all pause and reflect on more often? Over the last two years of his solo career, Styles has performed in floral Gucci suits, heeled YSL ankle boots, and the occasional velvet ensemble. Offstage, though his look is more lowkey, he doesn’t shy away from an accessories pile-on, favoring hats and all kind of jewelry-layering. He sees fashion as a form of self-expression, according to his long-time stylist Harry Lambert and doesn’t believe in maintaining gender based fashion norms. In an interview with Vogue UK, he said of Styles, “Harry has always been keen to experiment with fashion and is never scared to try something new.” Styles is, as he said last night, having fun with clothes and being who he is. (And that is: an unabashed icon of style at 25.)
Consider some of the huge-name stars on the pink carpet: Did anyone explain to Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen exactly what the theme was? Did Kanye West just wake up and think, “It’s just the Met Ball. My Midwestern steel mill chic will do with Kim by my side”? Swizz Beats, while handsome in his green and maroon velvet, played it safe and, like many men before him, opted for a boring suit. Either they didn’t do so much as a quick Google search into Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp” before choosing their looks, or they didn’t have the gumption of one Harry Styles to step out in the full glamour that the event required.
And Styles isn't some kind of male fashion anomaly. He's inspiring others in young Hollywood to step it up as well. Cole Sprouse, child star turned Riverdale heartthrob, also graced the pink carpet with a truly outrageous ensemble. Looking somewhat similar to a hot ventriloquist dummy with his slicked side part, Sprouse rocked a sleeveless, maroon suit jacket and pants with floral appliques that were meant to mirror a pair of vintage Ferragamo shoes, as he told Vogue. Both he and Styles make it clear that men can have fun with their fashion choices, and that a night all about looks doesn’t have to be ladies-only.
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Harry Styles showing up as he did at the Met Gala, following years of bold style choices, opens up the conversation about what men wear. It’s a crack in the doorway for red carpet reporters and onlookers to excitedly ponder, “I wonder what Harry Styles — or Cole Sprouse, or Chadwick Boseman, or Donald Glover — will be wearing.” It’s permission for guys like these and any stars to come to continue showing up, to be asked who are you wearing, and to have a damn good answer.
So, is it a stretch to say Styles has, with this one sheer jumpsuit, Changed Red Carpets Forever? Let’s hope it isn’t, because it would be a change for the better.
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