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Styles Of The Times

With the release of his debut solo album, the former boy band singer Harry Styles is getting credit for a smooth transition from teen pop to rock and roll. As if you could ever separate the two.
Harry Styles debut solo album, Harry Styles, was released on May 12. Source: Harley Weir

The architects of teen idoldom have always known that more than music, though perhaps less than good orthodontic work, the clothes make the boy. The shirt of a heartthrob needs to be soft and ever so slightly rumpled, offering visual evidence that if it were removed and tossed onto a floor (say, in a dressing room as its owner heads into a post-show shower), it could grabbed and held like a treasured lovey blanket, emitting a scent just on the verge of sour, yet intoxicating: a blend of tree fort and licorice and ropy muscles, of girls' letters written in felt pen. The perfume of a young man's pleasure at merely being alive.

What made the boy was a polo shirt in the 1950s, a turtleneck in the 1960s, something polyester during the disco era. Gloria Stavers put Jim Morrison in her own fur jacket when she posed him for the cover of the magazine she edited, 16; the designer Bill Whitten put Michael Jackson in sequined jumpsuits that made him seem like light itself. As the teen male physical ideal was reshaped by gym rat practices and creatine, the fashions became simpler, to better show off honed physiques. By the mid-2000s the perfect teen idol outfit was more an ideal than a fashion statement: a white t-shirt, somehow never sullied — the ultimate sign of easeful male privilege. The one Harry Styles most frequently wore as the shaggy-haired main libidinal force in the boy band One Direction was a little loose but definitely clingy, sleeves rolled up so his fresh tattoos peeked through, possibly pulled out of a heap but somehow never wrinkled.

Styles has worn a variation of this shirt since trying out for the X Factor in 2010, when he covered it up with a scarf and a cardigan

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