“Erm,” said Harry Styles when he made his television debut in 2010. “I work in a bakery? And I, like, serve cakes in the shop bit…” Then 16, the erstwhile One Directioner was dressed in a long-line cardigan and a scoop-neck tee with a thin scarf – printed with what looked like ancient hieroglyphs – looped around his neck. There was also a fabric bracelet, a “manacle” as it were, rolled up the length of his forearm. All of that was considered a real expression of someone’s fashion capital in the 2010s, particularly if that person’s Avenue Montaigne was a Topman in Redditch. But less than a decade – and a string of record-breaking world tours, albums, brand launches, high-profile romances and Beatlemania levels of adulation – later, pop culture would elect Styles as its menswear god.
Much of this was because Styles – in the tradition of a great number of performers before him – wore pearl necklaces and pussy bow blouses and high-waisted trousers and a woefully-underreported saloon dress. Even if the musician’s personal wardrobe rarely went beyond the limits of a cropped tee and jeans, his on-stage persona – masterminded by the stylist Harry Lambert and Gucci’s former creative director Alessandro Michele – was one of flamboyance: taut bod sprinkled with artfully-distanced tattoos but swathed in lime-green feather boas and sequined flares and fuchsia jumpsuits. A swaggering sex symbol rooted not in sleaze but silliness. “It’s less about fashion, more about costume,” said Nicola Roberts – who has worked with Lambert on a number of occasions – when discussing the direction behind Girls Aloud’s upcoming tourdrobe. “But what Harry Lambert managed to do so amazingly well with Harry Styles, was bring fashion to costume with a retro flair.”
Now 30, Styles is a brand founder and an angel investor in the British label SS Daley, who was most recently photographed wearing an Arc’teryx windbreaker while strolling around Hampstead Heath. And though he seems to be taking a moment of respite from the public eye, his influence can be mapped across 2024’s heartthrobs: among them Timothée Chalamet, Kit Connor, Barry Keoghan and Jacob Elordi, who seem to have built their own image upon Style’s glittering blueprint. See also: the sheer number of heterosexual, civilian men who now feel emboldened to wear pearl necklaces – and the occasional bit of nail polish if they also happen to be amateur poets – on a night out. The only thing that is unforgivable – in my opinion – is the mainstreaming of one (one) dangly earring. It just about worked for a Met Gala themed around the word “camp”… less so on my friend’s boyfriend who has made the courageous decision to experiment with songwriting.
To celebrate his 30th birthday, scroll down to see 30 of Harry Styles’s most memorable looks.