By Melissa Stough
On March 14, the Grammy Awards kicked off with performances by DaBaby, Megan Thee Stallion, BTS, Post Malone and Harry Styles, to name a few. Though music takes center stage at this award ceremony, fashion occupies an equally significant role in the eyes of the audience.
As an aspect of pop culture, fashion often speaks louder than any lyric or impactful portrait. Over recent years, fans labeled Harry Styles as a revolutionary style icon with his bright and ‘feminine’ attire frequently crossing gender lines. His personal fashion risks led him to another internet takeover after his feather boa Grammy look transfixed his fans.
Despite the fashion bravery Styles demonstrates, can fans really claim him as the first male celebrity to experiment with gender performance? Individuals familiar with the work of David Bowie and Prince would likely answer, “No.”
In “Rebel, Rebel,” Bowie sang “You’ve got your mother in a whirl ’cause she’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl,” which only captures a fraction of the star’s manipulation of gender performance on and off the stage.
Bowie was enamoured with the concept of gender and the play between fashion and reflection of identity. Interviewers constantly inquired about the nature of his gender and sexuality based on his appearance, to which he would openly identify as a bisexual man that enjoys clothing and gender experimentation. However, Bowie did not own the sole right to tassels, neon and feminine cuts.
Following Bowie’s stardom, Prince Rogers Nelson, better known as Prince, revolutionized genderfluid fashion. Prince’s colorful stage costumes paralleled his progressive funk rock albums and blended with his vivid pop music. His vibrant colors echoed messages of gender fluidity and sexuality, and they mirrored the free-flowing, typically ‘feminine’ assigned wardrobe of celebrities of the time period.
Though Styles certainly brings further attention to gender fluid fashion and the toxicity of gender roles, fans and news sources regularly neglect the historical figures behind the choices he makes as both a celebrity and an influencer.