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Harry Styles becomes first solo male artist to grace 'Vogue' cover alone

The chart-topping performer can be seen mixing and matching clothing across the gender spectrum for the December issue of U.S. "Vogue."
Image: Today - Season 69
Harry Styles performs on "Today" on Feb. 26, 2020.Nathan Congleton / TODAY

British singer Harry Styles made history on Friday after he became the first male solo artist to grace the cover of American "Vogue" by himself.

The chart-topping performer can be seen mixing and matching clothing across the gender spectrum for the December issue of U.S. "Vogue," which was shot by photographer Tyler Mitchell, who is best known for his cover photo of Beyoncé in 2018.

Styles told the magazine about how his style evolved drastically since he was a member of heartthrob boy band One Direction, one of the best selling male groups of all time.

“Clothes are there to have fun with and experiment with and play with,” he said. “When you take away ‘There’s clothes for men and there’s clothes for women,’ once you remove any barriers, obviously you open up the arena in which you can play.”

“There’s so much joy to be had in playing with clothes. I’ve never really thought too much about what it means — it just becomes this extended part of creating something,” he said.

Gone were also the days of teenage pop music that defined One Direction, Styles said.

Since One Direction went on hiatus in 2016, the chart-topping performer has released two solo, No. 1 U.S. Billboard 200 Albums: “Harry Styles” in 2017 and “Fine Line” in 2020.

Styles said his sophomore album was informed by his desire to experiment with musical genres.

With his first album, Styles said he was still trying to find his footing as a solo artist, but his sophomore album was defined by setting those worries aside.

“I can see all the places where it almost felt like I was bowling with the bumpers up,” he said. “I think with the second album I let go of the fear of getting it wrong and… it was really joyous and really free.”

That unbridled joy paid off when he was nominated for Record of the Year at the 2020 Brit Awards.

Styles said his musical and clothing style transformed along with his personal beliefs as the U.S. began to reckon with its history of racial injustice in 2020.

“I think it’s a time for opening up and learning and listening,” he says. “I’ve been trying to read and educate myself so that in 20 years I’m still doing the right things and taking the right steps.”

“I believe in karma, and I think it’s just a time right now where we could use a little more kindness and empathy and patience with people, be a little more prepared to listen and grow,” he said.

As for the pandemic, Styles said at various points during quarantine, he found himself in a pod of close friends in his Los Angeles home, traveling back to London and other European cities when it was safe to do so, or lounging around in sweatpants, often yearning for an excuse to dress up again.

Alessandro Michele, the creative director of Gucci and Styles’ frequent collaborator, told “Vogue” that Styles was a “very modern” man — one that is most fitting to be the first male solo artist on the cover of the legacy magazine.

“He is the image of a new area, of the way that a man can look,” Michele said. “This brand of confidence as a male that Harry has — truly devoid of any traces of toxic masculinity — is indicative of his generation and therefore the future of the world.”

“I think he’s a revolutionary,” he said.