Unless you are literally living under the digital equivalent of a very large rock, you may be aware that renowned musical heart throb and traditional crowd pleaser Harry Styles has produced a series of covers and interviews for magazine AnOther Man, which is essentially a modern day bible of creativity in men’s fashion and *coolness*.
Now, I don’t know a lot about Harry Styles. Pop music is not really my thing. Neither are boy bands for that matter, or really boys in general (from a fan girling, adoring point of view at any rate), but his covers definitely got me thinking.
“Why”, you ask, “Have you finally fallen victim to the masculine wiles of the opposite gender, starting with the most unoriginal teen crush possible?”
The answer, unsurprisingly, is no.
the AnOther Man covers did not cause me to obsess over the minutiae of Harry Style’s life, or plaster posters of him all over my room; rather, they got me thinking about the concepts of individuality and self expression, and their place in our society today.
Sad but true, we live in a world of judgement. Perhaps even more sadly, those judgements are encouraged, ingrained, even legalised; consider this weeks federal appeals court ruling that it’s a perfectly acceptable work practice to fire or not hire people that wear dreadlocks, solely for that reason.
This kind of judgement is the foundation of a lot of societal and cultural norms; but is it what society actually wants?
My answer, at least from the point of “The Youth” (damn those meddling kids!) is, unsurprisingly, no.
Individuality and self expression is a beautiful thing, and discovering it is a beautiful experience. Discovering that it’s ok to be what you want, to do as you would like to do and to do so without caring or needing to consider the judgement of others is a wonderful period of revelation, allowing you to grow as your own island and as a part of the bigger picture; I personally believe a greater understanding of yourself leads to a greater understanding of others, and that this understanding then leads to acceptance.
I’ll be the first to say that I don’t really understand a lot of his shoot for AnOther Man; unlike a lot of celebrity photoshoots, there’s not necessarily a discernible purpose within all the shots, particularly when compared with examples like the way women are portrayed on the cover of Rolling Stone (hint; it’s aggressively sexy.)
However I like the lack of context in Harry’s covers, the lack of apparent purpose; the shoots and characters seem like a genuine exploration of self expression, which is an awesome thing to see in itself.
It almost doesn’t really matter if there’s an intended meaning behind Harry’s creative choices; it’s simply very cool, and very encouraging, to see someone doing their own thing and reveling it.
Don’t get me wrong; I am by no means saying that acceptance of self expression means everything is on the cards. This is not “it’s not race/sex/whatever -ism, it’s an opinion” time . You are not Princess Bubblegum. No one is going to support you for pulling a Rachel Dolezal, or deciding your version of individuality is the only “right” one, or for hurting others through your own expression. Self exploration cannot really be seen as a positive, creative, progressive expression of diversity if all that is achieved is a wider split, yet this is often what happens, particularly when celebrities are involved.
But Harry’s shoot didn’t have any of those issues. The covers are carefree, experimental and progressive; yet they are also wildly encouraging, and ultimately harmless.
AnOther Man and Harry have simply created unconventional, beautiful works of art, and a beautifully simple statement:
“I’m here, I’m different and I’m ok with it, so why don’t you be ok with it too?”