When Harry Styles appeared on the cover of Vogue last year wearing a dress and blazer, he made history as the first man to ever appear solo on the front of the magazine. One person who wasn’t cheering about that trailblazing moment was Billy Porter. “I changed the whole game,” he told The Sunday Times. “I. Personally. Changed. The. Whole. Game. And that is not ego, that is just fact. I was the first one doing it and now everybody is doing it.”
Styles, however, credited several musicians for influencing his style. “The people that I looked up to in music — Prince and David Bowie and Elvis [Presley] and Freddie Mercury and Elton John — they’re such showmen,” he told Vogue in 2020. “As a kid it was completely mind-blowing. Now I’ll put on something that feels really flamboyant, and I don't feel crazy wearing it.”
Porter shared that his “acceptance” in the fashion industry happened because it had to. “I created the conversation [about nonbinary fashion] and yet Vogue still put Harry Styles, a straight white man, in a dress on their cover for the first time,” he said.
While Porter made it clear this isn’t meant to be an attack on Styles himself, but rather the fashion industry’s choice to look to Styles as the representation of nonbinary fashion. “I'm not dragging Harry Styles, but he is the one you’re going to try and use to represent this new conversation?” asked Porter. “He doesn’t care, he’s just doing it because it's the thing to do. This is politics for me. This is my life. I had to fight my entire life to get to the place where I could wear a dress to the Oscars and not be gunned now. All he has to do is be white and straight.”
For Porter, who made waves in the fashion world with his Christian Siriano tuxedo gown on the 2019 Oscars red carpet, wearing a dress had a profound meaning for the out gay star, who had been told his “queerness would be a liability.” Instead, it’s part of what has made him an icon.