On a crisp morning in April I screamed into the void, "Someone give me 2000 words to write about why Harry Styles's sense of fashion is a small beacon of hope in these trying times."
And I never expected a real response. I expected the normal things—a couple thousand likes, a few hundred RTs, a proposal from Harry himself—but never a commission to do exactly what I'd suggested, never the chance to take off my metaphorical boot and bang it on the table while shouting about how right I am about everything all the time (because I am). I never expected a miracle.
Which was my own fuck-up. As our post-1D world burns down around us, I've learned that even the smallest of silver linings have become the comforters with which we've shielded ourselves. Last year, the silver lining was that Zayn's debut was far better than the video for "PILLOW TALK" and it was a shinier silver lining that Harry Styles's turn in Dunkirk looked better than Timberlake's cinematic debut in Edison. But this year, Harry has extended the shiniest silver thermal blanket of all: his sense of fashion.
It will save us all.
To start, Harry isn't re-inventing the wheel. In fact, he's brazenly co-opting the look I embraced back circa 1998 in the proud belief that my own plaid pants would guarantee a spot in my elementary school's social elite. (They did not.)
But where I made the mistake of pairing plaid with a tattletale attitude—and fluorescent green turtleneck—Harry learned from my mistakes and ventured down the road of early-days Mick Jagger, capitalizing on the fact even a baby could recognize that the two UK music phenoms look like twins whose time-traveling parents insisted they dress the same way. Which, like, fair: Harry's been vocal about building his solo album around the legends of classic rock. So by reminding us that he could be a version of Mick who cares more about kale than about drugs, he's keeping both feet firmly planted in the Accessible Boy Band™ and grown-ass man camps.
For the record, that is the only time those camps should ever be straddled, even though, according to the BSB residency in Las Vegas, the median age of all active boy bands is currently 42.
This is a shirt that says exactly two things: "But you look like a pirate!" (First proudly stated by Tobias Funke in Arrested Development's pilot episode.)
Also: "If you've ever talked shit about your Nana's wardrobe, you can go fuck yourself."
Because here, Harry merges the worlds of nostalgia, business casual, and family values. Once upon a time, a blouse was just a shirt; it was the basis of a Seinfeld episode, the reason Tobias Funke landed on a small protest ship, and largely why we still make Working Girl references in 2017. It takes a bold man to wear a blouse, and a bolder man to wear one outside Harry's former approach. Back in 2015, he wore his loudly, unbuttoned, and as free-flowing as his Fabio hair. This year, he's buttoned-up, proper, and pussy bowed. And through this display, he's a living reminder that without our nanas and grandmas and moms in the 80s, we would all be nothing. So keep going, you sweet, sweet treasures—we're doing it for them.
Evoking Jarvis Cocker himself, Harry Styles used this moment to show us that it's possible to tune out and one-up Jimmy Fallon with the simple combination of a blazer and button-up. And don't you dare think this is some dismissable feat: Few of us will ever forget the mental picture of Jimmy laughing and tousling the hair of President 45. But for a fleeting second this imagery was erased by the presence of a young man with impeccable fashion sense and comic timing. We were distracted by a true performer.
And honestly, my entire thesis has just been proved by this point alone.
Speaking of Jarvis Cocker, holy shit, what do we have here? (An outfit very closely resembling something Jarvis Cocker would've worn. FYI, for heaven's sake.) Clad in F/W 2017 Gucci, Harry honors the suits of his ancestors—and by that I most certainly mean older, British men who catapulted this look to popularity in the Victorian era before it showed back up in the 70s and 90s.
Which sends us a very important message: Time is a flat circle. Everything old is new again. Keep your old clothes; they will be valuable as fuck. To idiots, what Harry is wearing is merely a plaid suit—a trend for the upcoming season and one we'll see on red carpets by men secure enough to venture away from the neutrality that dictates so much of their wardrobes. But to the rest of us, it is a reminder that this too shall pass. That at one point, everything seemed fresh and new and original and pressing, but before long it will fade and taken over by something bigger. With this suit alone, Harry reminds us that our slowly imploding world will pause and rebuild, pause and rebuild, pause and rebuild. It is the silver lining that while what he's wearing might seem risky, it's a tale as old as time, a look pioneered by men who have been ghosts for over a century. It is a reminder to just keep fucking going.
I am clearly sobbing as I write this.
This, well, okay: He looks like Leonardo DiCaprio in Romeo + Juliet. Look at him. Look at that shirt. Look at that face. Guys, his hair is even the fucking same. I'm serious. Are you seeing this? No, stop looking at Jimmy Fallon—the man is wearing bootcut dad jeans and camel-colored cashmere, for fuck's sake. Seriously, stop looking at Jimmy. Look at Harry. Look at his outfit. He is Baz Luhrmann's version of 1996. He is seconds from confronting John Leguizamo before losing his shit in the wake of falling in love with a girl he's met two times. He is a reminder that before Leonardo DiCaprio descended into cargo shorts and That Vape Life™ he embodied youthful promise. He is the reincarnation of our YM dreams and everything we felt before Jack Dawson said, "So you wanna go to a real party?"
In fact, he is reverse Leo: He is proof that you can learn from another person's mistakes and start again. Last year, Harry's hair reflected the aesthetic put forth by The Man in the Iron Mask: long locks, sweeping waves, nothing to write home about. But where Leo used length as a means of separating himself from his teen dream persona, Harry's gone the opposite route to show us that before we get carried away with comparisons, he is his own man. He will cut his hair for roles. He will leave the locks behind. And while he is a reminder of those we used to love, he embraces only those good reminders, assuring us via printed shirts that he will never, ever let us down.
And that's all the hope for the future I need.
Anne T. Donahue is on Twitter.